Dave Koz Talks Music

Acclaimed gay Jewish jazz saxophonist Dave Koz who’s currently opening for Barry Manilow, talks about his latest musical match

Dave Koz

When it came time for Barry Manilow to plan his final large-scale tour, he had his choice of opening acts. In the end, he hand-picked a longtime collaborator and friend, the multiple Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist Dave Koz.

“I can’t say enough about Dave,” said Manilow in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “I hear him, and [he] plays as if he’s singing. … You get a sense of who he is when he plays.”

Koz, 52, is a Southern California native who began his career as a session musician but launched his solo career in 1990. Since then, the UCLA graduate has racked up nine Grammy nominations and played with such artists as Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Shelby Lynne, Kenny Loggins, U2, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In an email interview, Koz spoke about his collaborations with Manilow, how Los Angeles has shaped him and what he has in store for audiences at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Monday.

How long have you known Barry Manilow? Describe your creative relationship with him.

I first met Barry when he was making his “Mayflower” album and asked me to come in and play a sax solo. Little did I know he’d end up using my actual name in the lyric of that song! I knew then that this was going to be a special friendship. He’s been completely invaluable to me over the years, serving as a great musical mentor and dear friend.

People often don’t realize what an amazing musician this man is. Of course we know him as the consummate entertainer, the vocalist and songwriter, but behind it all, he is a master musician who knows what every note and every nuance will do to the listener. Basically when I am around him, I am a sponge, trying to soak it all up, and he’s been beyond kind and generous to me, having me join him for so many different musical experiences. We’ve been having such a blast on this tour, spending lots of time together.

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