July 14, 2011 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Koz and effect

Gay saxophonist Dave Koz plays the Birchmere next week. (Photo courtesy of Judi Kerr PR)

Dave Koz
‘Hello Tomorrow Tour’
Wednesday
The Birchmere
3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22305
$49.50

About six months after country singer Chely Wright came out last year, she admitted the move, while not done for commercial reasons, didn’t help her career. Wright says her sales dropped by half and she was hounded by hate mail.

Jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, who came out in a 2004 interview says his experience was much different.

“I think in my case it was done so below the radar screen it was really just a blip,” he says. “I don’t think people really even noticed. I’m in such a niche format, it’s just much different from country music. A lot of people, and I really hate to generalize, but I think people who listen to country music in this country tend to be maybe a bit more conservative and that probably has something to do with it. But I think what she did was fantastic. You just get to a point where you just want to feel you’re playing with a full deck and I was like, OK, I’m gonna be OK if my career took a dip because I just wanted to play with all my cards. I bet she’s much happier now overall because that smaller audience, they’re much more passionate with her and they know her fully and completely.”

Koz, a 20-year veteran of the music industry with 15 albums under his belt, plays the Birchmere in Alexandria on Wednesday. He’s touring on his latest album, “Hello Tomorrow,” which bowed last October and has spawned three hit singles on Billboard’s smooth jazz and Mediabase’s Smooth AC chart.

Koz, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles, is touring with a five-piece band. Despite the serene images his radio format conjures, he says his live shows are far from snoozefests.

“It’s very high energy,” he says. “This is a great band I’ve got with me. They’re really a bunch of characters and incredible musicians.”

Koz, 48, usually plays a 90-minute set and says fans can expect him to dart around from the new record, to album cuts he hasn’t played live in years to, of course, his biggest hits “You Make Me Smile” and “Together Again.” He varies the arrangements from tour to tour to keep himself engaged.

“I just feel lucky to have hits to play,” he says. “There are a couple songs that the diehards would probably feel disappointed if I didn’t do. I think the key for any artist playing the same song for decades is you gotta be able to approach it in a different way. Nothing was sacred in our tour rehearsals and we just approach them with a different attitude so it really doesn’t feel like you’re playing it for the 10,000th time. I’ve never hated playing my hits. I’ll play them till I’m blue in the face and just be thrilled to have them.”

Koz, who’s single and says touring makes dating tough, has started addressing gay themes in his music. His latest video, a cover of the Herb Alpert song “This Guy’s in Love With You” featured a variation on the flash mob video he calls a “love mob.” It was shot last month and is on YouTube now and features a cameo by Alpert. It’s also one of the few instances of Koz singing. He says he made the video, which features gay and straight couples, as a statement for marriage equality.

Was it a risk getting political? Koz doesn’t see it that way.

“I think it’s anything but political,” he says. “It’s a shame that something as simple and universal as love gets politicized. That’s the thing that drives me crazy about this issue.  … Will it change the world? No, but if it opens a couple peoples’ eyes, then it will have been a success.”

Koz says more gays have started coming to his shows since he came out but he doesn’t sense his audience in general, which is mostly straight, cares.

“Coming out really brought no negative response,” he says. “I don’t think they really care other than they want to be taken on a journey. People have such crazy lives and are under so much stress, I think they just come to the shows with the attitude of, ‘I want to be carried away for the next two hours on a journey and you’re the captain of the ship.’”

 

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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