Oct 12, 2010
"Everything is gonna work out right, just like we prayed it would. You are a miracle in the making and yes, it is working for your good"
Dana Glover "Start All Over Again" from the Dave Koz CD Hello Tomorrow
Someone has stepped into this crazy, chaotic, and constantly shifting mess we call life in the 21st century and come to a place where he has thought it over, been through some stuff, sorted it out, and has some ideas about how we can move towards that light at the end of the tunnel. Or, better than that, how we can become parts of the light at the end of the tunnel. It's not somebody in D.C. mired in the muck of politics, it's not a televangelist with a mega-church, a self-help guru hawking the book that will save your life, or a perfectly groomed talking head on a cable network. It's a self-proclaimed “short Jewish gay sax player from the valley" who is actually one of our finest musicians and strongest advocates. Dave Koz has done something beautiful here. He has delivered a set of songs that showcase everything wonderful about contemporary instrumental music at a time when a lot of people feel like this genre is in an endless downward spiral. He has also brought a tangible undercurrent of inspiration and positive energy to this music without ever getting overbearing, preachy, or cheesy.
This is an important album, It brings something very special to you as a listener and to the music itself. It's a true album too. Hello Tomorrow recalls a time when an album was a single entity, a collection of songs that stood strongly on their own but meant even more when heard all together because an overall theme that ran through the songs and the way they were sequenced. You will lose something big if you cherry-pick at the download store because this is meant to be taken as a whole.
Because it hit me on so many levels, from the cover art to the lyrics of a song, I couldn't come up with a way to shoehorn what I wanted you to know about it into the structure of a traditional review. Listing some of the reasons I love it seemed to be a better way to get the message across. “Let Me Count The Ways”:
- Koz's personal message in the liner notes is an eloquent summary of how the changes we go through in our lives - the ones that are personal and the ones that are brought on by what is happening in the world - affect us, and how we can use these experiences to grow and move forward with strength, courage, and faith. I printed it out so I can read it every morning. You will want to do the same.
- The cover picture shows a person who is comfortable in his own skin. How often do you see that? One of the themes running through this album is that he wants this music to bring you to that place. Listen. Go there and stay a little longer each time until it feels natural for you too. That is not as easy as it seems.
- He talked about wanting to get out of his comfort zone and he eschewed the usual smooth heavy hitters and hooked up with Marcus Miller as one of the producers. Miller is an individualist, an innovator, and a master at his craft, but he has never been a jazz snob. He doesn't try to turn artists into something they are not, he pushes them to dig deeper and become more of who they are, and that's what happened here.
- Can we talk stellar lineup of established and up and coming artists? Lee Ritenour, Jeff Lorber, Keb' Mo', Brian Culbertson, Boney James, Sheila E., Jonathan Butler, Herb Alpert, Ray Parker Jr., Lenny Castro, Paul Jackson Jr., Harvey Mason, a slew of heavy hitter session musicians, and profoundly gifted singer/songwriter Dana Glover. More about her later.
- On “Put The Top Down,” the opening track, Koz steps immediately into zones that were forbidden in the smooth realm with a big horn section and a searing guitar solo. Two tracks
later the lyrical piano and acoustic harmonies on “It's Always Been You,” show that there are more facets to this music than funk and groove.
- Koz and Boney James both have distinct and identifiable sax tones that sound as different as two singers with contrasting voices. Hearing them duet on "When Will I Know For Sure" is a delicious experience. The fact that rising stars Darren Rahn and Nate Harasim co-wrote and contributed to the song takes it even higher.
- If you put on the headphones and listen to "Whisper In Your Ear" it will take you to a beautiful place for 4 minutes and 47 seconds. The combination of a lyrical, meditative sax melody, Harvey Mason's shimmering keyboard textures and Koz's whispered affirmations mixed in a haunting and unobtrusive way makes this a guided meditation for people who didn't think they could meditate. Shut out the world, put on your headphones and listen to this, followed by "The Journey." It's a safe harbor in the everyday storm.
- Bring on the blues! Keb' Mo' delivers a motivational message at the front of "There's A Better Way" which he spices up with some pure delta blues guitar while Koz gets down and dirty on the sax and Bobby Sparks plays a real lowdown B-3 line in the back.
- Koz has always brought an Adult Alternative/Pop sensibility to the genre, even when it was almost exclusively leaning R&B. Remember the guitar based rhythm section on Off The Beaten Path and "Together Again's" catchy pop melody? He brings that into play on this one too and it gives the whole album a bright, uplifting feeling.
- The day I got this CD I was late for work because I had to listen to "Start All Over Again" three more times before I got out of the car. Dana Glover is one of the finest singer/songwriters around. She has a big, full, powerful voice that she uses with so much nuance and depth of expression. Every word of "Start All Over Again" is going to go straight to your heart. It will lead you to a deeper understanding of struggle and the hope that can be uncovered in the process.
- Koz recorded "This Guy's In Love With You" because of his love for the Bachrach/David classic. He shared it with Herb Alpert, who originally recorded it. Alpert contributed a trumpet line at the end. Koz also sings it because, as he said in his liner notes. "To love another is our birthright. Whomever that might be." When we hear the voice of someone we know coming from the heart, it puts a face on an issue and moves it from the realm of politics into the realm of all that is human. We should celebrate those who find love in this crazy world, not throw barriers in front of them. Can a song raise consciousness and become part of a healing process. Of course it can!
- One time I did an iTunes playlist called "Cheaper Than Therapy." It was a list of songs that made you feel better when you are feeling down. This album could be "Cheaper Than Therapy-part 2" because that is what it does. All in one package.
- What if you just want to get into some entertaining, spirited, catchy, head bobbin', foot tappin', booty shakin' songs you can "Put The Top Down" to? This collection delivers that to the max. You can go deep or you can glide on the surface. He did this for you and you can come to it from whatever place you choose.
- You'll find your own reasons to love this music and so will I. This list ends with a “to be continued.”
There have always been albums that became significant turning points in their respective genres.
This has the potential to be one for ours. The songs are all strong, there is a lot of variety in tempo, texture, mood, and type. None of them sound like they were recorded to fit a format. Hopefully the spirit of these sessions will be contagious and the ripple that was created by assembling some of our most influential musicians and letting them make the music they were meant to make without boundaries or handcuffs will help them recall what it feels like and take that vibe back into their own future projects. We spent over 15 years in the mindset that “too exciting” was a criticism, not a compliment. It's time to change that. I have always felt that we needed to shift from “smooth and relaxing” to “uplifting and entertaining.” When people hear how wonderful that shift can sound they won't want to settle for less. That's when the floodgates open. Hello Tomorrow