Dave Koz’s Saxophonic is, in short, a great journey through many different themes and styles guided by Koz’s characteristic beautiful sound. Saxophonic earned Dave Koz two Grammy Nominations and a NAACP Image Award nomination. Dave Koz continues to push his musical style forward in Saxophonic, keeping with his tradition of never letting himself be satisfied with falling into a set style or groove. Saxophonic features all original compositions and many great musicians from all over contemporary music including Marc Antoine, Chris Botti, Norman Brown, Brian Culbertson, Bobby Caldwell, Nathan East, Jeff Lorber, Javier, Brian McKnight, and Lenny Castro. Containing thirteen songs divided into three “Acts,” Saxophonic features many different musical styles including R&B, funk, pop, hip-hop instrumentalism, bebop, electronica and African folk, all fused with contemporary jazz.
Beginning the First Act, “Honey-Dipped” features a funky up-beat sound with R&B influences. This song contains a full range of instruments, including a small horn section which provides backgrounds, a funky percussion section with Lenny Castro on percussion, and Norman Brown on guitar solos. Overall, “Honey-Dipped” provides a good first impression for the rest of the album and has a very likeable groove. Following “Honey-Dipped” is “Love Changes Everything” which features Brian McKnight on vocals. “Love Changes Everything” demonstrates Dave Koz’s trademark soprano saxophone playing - very smooth with beautiful textures and tone. Overall it is a very relaxing song with R&B and funk influences. Up next is “All I see Is You” a collaborative effort between Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson. It features Dave Koz’s dark tenor sax soloing over a hard driving bass and kicking percussion section with inspiration from blues, funk, and electronica. This song also features a little inspiration from a new style being labeled “European Chill.” Ending Act One is “Just To Be Next To You” another demonstration of Koz’s sweet and smooth soprano playing. “Just To Be Next To You” flows very lyrically and develops a beautiful melody with a nice gentle background.
“Let It Free” kicks off Act Two and is a grooving piece which features some really great saxophone work and sets the stage for the rest of Act Two. It is an upbeat contemporary jazz song with Dave Koz soloing on soprano and tenor saxophones. Koz’s style of sax playing is clearly pushed, developed, and demonstrated throughout the song. The second song in Act Two is “Undeniable” which features Jeff Lorber and Bobby Caldwell. It also focuses on the sweet tones of the saxophone through the alto sax, and is accompanied nicely by a small background horn section. Next up is the title track from the album, “Saxophonic.” “Saxophonic” is a kicking, driving, funky up-beat piece which features many different sounds of the saxophone with Koz soloing on tenor, alto, and soprano. It is a clear fusion piece mixing a little of every contemporary style of music while still being clearly jazz. Wrapping up Act Two is “The Definition Of Beautiful” which features a beautiful melody played on the soprano sax by Koz and sung by Javier. A mixture of an R&B ballad and contemporary jazz, it is a smooth flowing song with a driving bass line.
Kicking off Act Three with a beautiful alto sax solo that turns into a surprising funky new style of music, “Sounds Of The Underground” is a definite mix of styles. It combines samples of Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” with Chris Botti on trumpet and Koz on alto sax, with a rhythm section playing with a bebop style, mixed in with hip-hop sounds and effects, and creates a great song that keeps on driving. “Sounds Of The Underground” launches the journey into international musical influences that is the theme of Act Three. Next on Dave Koz’s tour is “Only Tomorrow Knows” which is a beautifully flowing song with a European Chill rhythm section laced in with Koz’s soprano solo work. It is a great example of Koz’s tireless experimenting with the mixture of various styles and coming up with a great work. Following “Only Tomorrow Knows” is “I Believe,” a very spiritually moving song, and is very demonstrative of Koz’s ability to play with great emotion. It is a very intense piece with Koz soloing on alto saxophone throughout the piece, and is very reminiscent of Coltrane’s “ Alabama,” not in its sadness but in its spiritual connectiveness. Ending Act Three is “A View From Above” which features Brian Culbertson on piano and keyboards, Marc Antoine on guitar, and Bashiri Johnson on African percussion. “A View From Above” takes you on a journey throughout various world themes and styles, including flamenco guitar and African rhythm. It is another very intense work that leaves you in a contemplative mood after listening.
The last song on Saxophonic is “One Last Thing” labeled as the “Curtain Call” in the album liner notes. It features Brian McKnight on piano and vocals and Dave Koz on alto saxophone, and is a quiet, beautiful work in a very traditional saxophone ballad style. “One Last Thing” provides an excellent close and gives a feeling that one is in a jazz club late at night.
Saxophonic is a great album that further demonstrates the talents and abilities of Dave Koz to push his style and playing to new levels.
- Ben Ware
(Ben is a Senior at Radford University in Virginia and plays alto and tenor sax in the Radford Jazz Ensemble and Radford Big Band.)