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Nine-time GRAMMY® nominee Dave Koz remembers the first record he ever purchased – Tower of Power’s 1974 album, Back To Oakland. It had a powerful impact on him, as his 2013 release, Summer Horns, shows. Teaming up with three of his most talented and trusted colleagues – Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair – Koz revisited the music that made him want to pick up the saxophone in the first place: classic tracks from Tower of Power and other brassy juggernauts that ruled the airwaves from the late 1960s through the ‘70s – bands like Sly & the Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears.
Over the decades, the saxophone has opened numerous doors for Koz. He’s played with such artists as Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Shelby Lynne, Kenny Loggins, U2, Barry Manilow, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart. He’s become a platinum-selling artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is also known as a humanitarian, entrepreneur, radio host and instrumental music advocate.
Born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Dave initially just saw the saxophone as a way to help him gain entry into his big brother’s band. What began as a ploy became a lifelong obsession. After graduating from UCLA, Koz decided to become a professional musician. Within weeks of that decision, he was recruited as a touring member of Bobby Caldwell’s band. It was during this time that Koz befriended keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who invited Koz to come play on one of his tours. That stint was followed by a fourteen-month tour with pop singer Richard Marx.
Signed to Capitol Records by Bruce Lundvall, Koz released his self-titled solo debut album in 1990. This was the first in a body of best-selling work, which includes the gold-certified Lucky Man (1993), Off The Beaten Path (1996), and the holiday-themed albums December Makes Me Feel This Way (1997) and Dave Koz & Friends - A Smooth Jazz Christmas (2001). His gold-certified fifth album, The Dance (1999), spawned no less than five Top 5 contemporary jazz hits. Saxophonic (2003) produced another four Top 5 singles and garnered Koz two GRAMMY® nominations spanning two consecutive years.
In 2007, Koz released two chart-topping collections of standards. At The Movies, his lush, romantic celebration of timeless melodies from cinema, spent 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart. Produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, it was nominated for a GRAMMY® in the “Best Pop Instrumental Album” category. Memories Of A Winter’s Night, a festive collection of holiday standards, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart in December 2007. Dave Koz At The Movies Double Feature CD + DVD followed in early 2008, which featured the At The Movies CD with two never-before-released bonus audio tracks, a new DVD and a track-by-track commentary.
Capitol Records released Dave Koz – Greatest Hits, his first-ever retrospective album, in the fall of 2008 and it debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart. The collection included many of Koz’s smash singles – including “Castle of Dreams,” “Can’t Let You Go” featuring the late Luther Vandross, “Together Again,” “Honey-Dipped” and “All I See Is You” – plus four new brand new songs. Lead single “Life In The Fast Lane,” which Koz cowrote with writer/producer Darren Rahn, spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the R&R Monitored Smooth Jazz chart. It was followed by the Top 5 single “Bada Bing.”
Hello Tomorrow – Dave’s first album for Concord Records – debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart and was named the “Best Smooth Jazz Album of 2010” by iTunes. The CD was nominated for a GRAMMY® award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Hailed as “an event record” by The New York Times, its lead single, “Put The Top Down,” spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Mediabase Smooth A/C chart – the longest stint at No. 1 of any of Koz’s charttopping hits. Ultimate Christmas, featuring 18 perennial holiday classics performed by Koz, bowed in 2011 on Capitol/EMI. Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, Koz’s first-ever live CD, was released by Concord Records in 2012 and received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Koz and his friends Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair turned to producer Paul Brown (Al Jarreau, George Benson, June Tabor, Boney James) to help them realize the vision for Summer Horns (Concord Records). The album also features trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun, trombonist Brian Culbertson, vocalists Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler – plus arrangements by Greg Adams (Tower of Power) and Tom Scott. Topping it off is a sax-only rendition of "Take Five" with Gordon Goodwin offering his arrangement to the quartet and a new original composition, “Summer Horns.” The album was honored with a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album and an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Jazz Album.
Koz’s new holiday recording, The 25th of December, is scheduled for release on September 30, 2014 on Concord Records. The album features duets with some of the most prominent pop and jazz artists of the last several decades, including Johnny Mathis, Eric Benét, Gloria Estefan, Heather Headley, Richard Marx, Kenny G, BeBe Winans, India.Arie, Trombone Shorty, Jonathan Butler, Fantasia and Stevie Wonder.
Dave is constantly touring, with annual summer and holiday tours, and the highly successful Dave Koz & Friends At Sea. Koz, who has hosted four sold-out cruises thus far, will be exploring “The Ultimate Caribbean” with fans and fellow artists on his February 2016 cruise. Dave also continues to flex his mass-communications muscles as a radio personality. He hosts the syndicated Dave Koz Radio Show – now in its 20th year and airing in approximately 50 markets. In the spring of 2014, he launched “The Dave Koz Lounge,” which airs Sundays on SiriusXM (Satellite radio), and “Dave Koz & Friends Radio,” a 24-hour-a-day radio channel personally curated by Dave on SKY.FM Radio & JAZZRADIO.com multichannel internet radio services.
As an entrepreneur, Koz founded Rendezvous Entertainment. He recently joined forces with Cary Hardwick and Laurie Sisneros, partners and owners of Spaghettini in Seal Beach, to open a new restaurant/live music venue in the heart of Beverly Hills’ new restaurant row. Spaghettini and The Dave Koz Lounge is set to open in the late fall of 2014.
As a philanthropist, Koz has served for 19 years as global ambassador for the Starlight Children’s Foundation. With KOZ Wines, founded in 2009, he found another way to help Starlight continue its vital mission. Dave is donating all his proceeds from KOZ Wines to Starlight. The wines are available at Whole Foods Markets® and other retailers and during select periods at California Pizza Kitchen. Two new wines from Koz’s partnership with premium Santa Barbara winemaker Terravant picked up Gold and Best of Class awards in the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
Koz completed a four-year term on the GRAMMY® Foundation Artists Committee and has served as National Trustee for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).
If you’ve ever seen Rick Braun perform, you know what a high-energy entertainer he is. But ask him to talk about his career and the gregarious, charismatic musician-songwriter-producer becomes visibly uncomfortable and awkwardly quiet.
“The collective moments are one big unfolding story that’s still not done. I just sit back and be grateful to still be making music with friends,” says the humble trumpeter-flugelhorn player-vocalist Braun, a consistent chart-topper who has amassed a catalogue of No. 1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and radio hits throughout his solo career that began in earnest in 1992.
One of those memorable moments for Braun occurred twenty years ago at influential Los Angeles radio station 94.7 The Wave with friend and fellow contemporary jazz star Peter White. The two had a hit from Braun’s 1994 breakthrough release Beat Street entitled “Club Harlem,” a horn and nylon string guitar duet. It was a track that came at a time when both artists were being propelled from being first-call sidemen to solo recording artists. Braun recalls turning to his frequent collaborator and asking, “How long do you think we’ll be able to keep doing this?”
As Braun cranks up the machine in advance of his 16th release, Can You Feel It , he says, “I’m grateful that people still want to hear what I have to say [musically]. That’s beautiful and miraculous.”
You can feel his genuine sense of gratitude as much as you can feel the joy he pours into his music and the fun he has creating it. On Can You Feel It , Braun fondly conjures the spirit of Beat Street in a return to his jazz-funk roots while continuing to record and collaborate with old and new musical friends.
“When I started working on this album, which was about a year in the making, there were two goals that I had in mind. I wanted it to be really organic and have a lot of my friends playing on it. Young players—like Third Richardson, who is one of the best drummers in the world and Nathaniel Kearney Jr., an extraordinary bassist—melding together with the old faithful; guys like Nate Phillips [bass] and Randy Jacobs [guitar]. It’s a return to the sound and style of Beat Street , which essentially was a tribute to my years playing in War. I took out all of the sequencing with one exception and made the record like a garage band using great live players. It was a lot of fun making the record. It’s energetic and earthy. We hit it hard—kind of like Tower of Power—capturing the energetic, funky horn band sound. I wanted lots of horn section parts on the album,” explains Braun.
Braun, who produced the collection and wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs, opens with the title track brimful of excitement and energy, capturing the classic sound his adoring fans across the world know and love. Can You Feel It is packed with horn section parts, the melodic trumpet lead riding the crest of a funky R&B groove. Of note on this cut and throughout the album is Braun wielding a relatively new weapon in his arsenal: valve trombone. “It’s got a funky sound, really unique and fun to play. It’s got a great sound.” A recurring partner in crime, Philippe Saisse, wrote the song with Braun. “Philippe is a harmonic wizard. He’s adventurous whereas I can be practical. He’ll go out on a limb and I bring him back.”
Friend and neighbor Brian Culbertson duets with Braun on “Back To Back” on which the keyboard sensation’s signature sound merges with the trumpet on the brisk energizer. “There’s a nice interplay and synergy. We have always brought that out in each other on our collaborations. After writing it with Phil Davis, I kept hearing Brian on it in my head. He did a wonderful job on the track.”
A longtime Al Green fan, Braun invited soul singer Elliot Yamin and saxophonist Euge Groove to join in on the fun party jam “Take Me To The River.” “Elliot’s an old soul with a soulful voice. He’s classic R&B right down to his shoelaces. He’s a character who sounds like he’s been around forever putting in the time playing dark and dusty clubs. He sang the song in one pass. He’s the real deal, right down to the Jack Daniels he had during the session,” says Braun with admiration.
Lingering memories of a romantic vacation with his wife, Christiane, inspired Braun to pen “Mallorca,” a sultry and exotic contemporary jazz tryst.
“Get Up And Dance” is an energetic frolic with Dave Koz during which the trumpet and sax engage in a playful discourse that sounds like a summer smash. “Dave came over to shoot a video segment for his internet TV show and the invite to play on the track came about organically,” reveals Braun, who wrote the album’s first single with co-producer Bud Harner. “Bud really stepped up and helped me to focus while working on the album.”
Saisse wrote the stunning “Another Kind Of Blue,” a gorgeous yet somber reflection with a sweeping silver lining chorus. Braun’s expressive flugelhorn conveys layers of emotional depth on the R&B ballad. “It’s a beautiful song, the one tune on the album that’s a showcase for what I do so I just let it fly spontaneously.”
Braun and keyboard pioneer Jeff Lorber combine forces on “Delta,” a taut, punchy R&B-funk-jazz hybrid. “As I was writing and working like crazy on the album, Jeff sent track after track—so many tracks over the span of months. I’d listen and then work on it. We wrote ‘Delta’ together, which is a quintessential hornfunk song.”
“Silk” was one of Braun’s earliest ideas when he started composing material for the set. Tension builds on the gentle piece that has “a delayed resolution and a delayed chorus. I wrote it late one night in the studio after my wife and the kids had gone to bed. I got in the studio and had this quiet moment alone.” Speeding from the start, “Radar” is another Braun and Lorber co-write with trumpet blazing the path.
“I had to play it hot to honor Lorber. You can’t play low-key on a Lorber track because he’s high energy, attack mode all the way. It’s like an athletic event,” laughs Braun.
The rhythm section carves a nice pocket for Braun’s trumpet lead on “The Dream” accentuated with flugelhorn flourishes. Braun says that Richard Freemont’s flute emerging late on the track “keeps it really interesting. I’ve always loved the classic CTI Records sound and this track has that type of energy and feel.”
Braun declares the album closer, “Dr. Funkenstein,” is “the cornerstone of the record. It gives the entire set validation. This song is true to my original concept. It’s very much in the spirit of Beat Street , and was written while jamming in the studio with Nate [Phillips] and Sergio [Gonzalez]. It’s got so much energy. It feels like Tower of Power to me,” says Braun. The boisterous joint attacks instantly with a monster funk prescription powered by fiery horns, rousing Hammond B3 organ blasts and old school R&B guitar licks. Looking at his diverse, award-winning career that spans jazz, pop and rock, the Allentown PA native says, “There have been many great moments with so many great artists in the studio and live.” Co-writing the Top 20 pop hit “Here With Me” for REO Speedwagon was his entry, and the gifted horn player became a highly-respected sideman touring and recording with Rod Stewart, Sade, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole and Tom Petty.
Spending years on the road with Stewart, Braun remembers the pivotal moment when he had to decide what type of musician he wanted to be. “I got a call from my manager telling me that ‘Cadillac Slim’ was a big hit. I had to either continue touring with Rod or really commit to my solo career. Instinctually I made the decision right away and never looked back,” recalls Braun. “My dream ever since I moved to Los Angeles in 1977 when I would drive back from Los Angeles into the valley at night and see all the magnificent lights was that I wanted to hear one of my songs playing on the radio while I was doing the drive. That dream came true with ‘Club Harlem.’”
Braun has not only crafted his own definitive hits that have been radio staples since the ‘90s, but he’s produced No. 1 hits for David Benoit, Marc Antoine and former Rod Stewart band sidekick Jeff Golub. He’s achieved collaborative success on massive hits with Boney James, as a member of RnR with saxman Richard Elliot and with BWB, a powerhouse trio completed by Grammy® winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown. His enthusiasm for collaborating carries over to his concert schedule. Not only is he a popular headliner on his own, but Braun regularly shares the spotlight touring as part of top drawer packages such as Jazz Attack, comprised of the trumpeter along with White and Groove with whom he will tour much of this year supporting Can You Feel It .
Although his horn work has been his signature voice establishing him as a preeminent player and genre icon, Braun realized another dream when he took to the microphone to croon jazz standards on his two most recent releases, Sings With Strings (2011, Artistry Music) and the Christmas collection Swingin’ In The Snow (2012). He’s toured and supported the discs by performing with orchestras and string sections that allowed the artist to explore new and different areas of his creative muse. “I’ve realized that I have two different careers that have little to do with each other and I’m okay with that. They were certainly departures for both me and my fans, and I relished the opportunities to make those albums,” Braun reflects candidly.
Can You Feel It instinctively brings Rick Braun back full circle, an offering guaranteed to satiate listeners who have been on the carousel with the multidimensional horn man while luring new ones to climb aboard. There is a crisp freshness and vibrancy evident in the new material mirroring the great pleasure he derives from making it. The devoted family man feels most comfortable when surrounded by friends while making funk-enriched contemporary jazz using live instrumentation. “It is a return to who I’ve been for so many years,” Braun concludes. “It is a return to being funky. It felt like it was time to keep the funk element alive and well.” And that it is.
Hailed by the New York Times as a “modern soul man,” Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Kenny Lattimore is climbing the charts once again with another hit in the making: “Love Me Back.” The simple feel-good track is the lead single from Lattimore’s seventh solo album, Anatomy of a Love Song (April 14). The project is the first release from the singer’s eOne Music-distributed Sincere Soul Records.
Says Lattimore, whose signature “For You” became an instant top 10 hit, “This project brings together all the musical elements of songs I have loved throughout the years. From breakup and makeup songs, to the highs and lows—I wanted to make sure this album touched everyone on my journey back to love.”
Focused on Lattimore’s mesmerizing skill set—tender vocals and penetrating, honest lyrics—Anatomy of a Love Song reflects a 21st century perspective of love and relationships. To weave a seamless balance between modern and classic R&B, Lattimore recruited a production team comprised of established hitmakers (Carvin and Ivan Barias, J.R. Hudson, Rico Love, Vidal Davis) and the hot new production team The Sauce Boys. The set also features the songwriting contributions of such next-generation talents as Wreh Jolla, Jenna Hughes Taylor and Jamal McCoy as well as Lattimore himself.
The Sauce Boys’ refreshing “Love Me Back” opens the 14-track project. Its engaging mix of ballads and mid-tempos includes the beautiful Haggins & Barias-helmed ballad “Find a Way,” the powerful “Heart Stops” and the smoky, sensuous “Nothing Like You.” The latter song features the sparkling vocals of Grammy Award winner Lalah Hathaway. Rounding out the guest list is Kelly Price, Shanice and gospel rapper Da Truth.
To strengthen his connection with longtime and new fans, Lattimore staged informal focus groups, playing demos of songs under consideration before he started recording Anatomy of a Love Song. “I wanted to find out what’s translating,” recalls the singer of sessions held in Minneapolis, Atlanta and Los Angeles. “That interaction gave me a different creative outlook as I more fully embraced what’s always been my musical purpose: speaking to the hearts of women and the minds of men.”
Growing up in Washington, D.C., Lattimore was raised on gospel music and such R&B/pop icons as Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. His freshman year at Howard University gave way to Lattimore becoming the lead singer for R&B group Maniquin. Signed to Epic, the group released the single “I Wanna Ride,” produced by the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson.
Lattimore relocated to New York City as a solo act and was signed to Columbia in 1995. Ushering in an R&B resurgence that counted D’Angelo and Maxwell in its ranks, Lattimore released his debut solo album a year later. The self-titled, gold-certified set spun off two top 20 hits: “Never Too Busy” and the romance classic “For You,” which peaked at No. 6 on the R&B charts.
In addition to the Grammy-nominated “For You,” Lattimore’s body of work includes his critically acclaimed sophomore album From the Soul of a Man and two top-10 charting duet albums with singer Chanté Moore: Things That Lovers Do and the gospel/R&B double-CDUncovered/Covered. Lattimore’s last solo project was the 2008 covers album Timeless.
Along the way, the singer has garnered Soul Train and Stellar Awards nominations as well as the NAACP Image Award for Best New Artist. His nuanced vocals have graced projects by a diverse array of artists from Musiq Soulchild and Rachelle Ferrell to Nancy Wilson and Brian Culbertson. This prestigious list also includes Kanye West, who sampled Lattimore’s “Lately” for the track “I’m in It” from West’s No. 1 album Yeezus.
Returning to his recording roots with Anatomy of a Love Song, Lattimore hasn’t lost sight of what’s important musically. “My brand isn’t about chasing something or someone I’m not,” says the singer. “I just have to be authentically me.”