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October 31, 2014

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Q+A:

Dave Koz is bringing saxy back, talks L.V., ‘Summer Horns’ and coming out 10 years ago

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Greg Allen

Dave Koz, second from left, with saxophonist friends Richard Elliot, Mindi Abair and Gerald Albright.

Dave Koz and Friends

Dave Koz and fellow saxophonist friends Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot. Launch slideshow »

Smooth-jazz saxophonist Dave Koz is bringing saxy back to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night with his saxophonist friends Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot.

The quartet had so much fun on Dave Koz and Friends’ “Summer Horns” — recording the album and touring — last year that they immediately agreed to hit the road again. Koz’s first time at the Smith Center was in 2012 for a sold-out Christmas program during the performing arts center’s inaugural year.

Koz — who was intelligent, articulate, thoughtful and charismatic during the phone interview — discussed “Summer Horns,” his love for Las Vegas, who he’d like to collaborate with in the music industry and coming out a decade ago ahead of Saturday night’s stop in downtown Las Vegas’ Symphony Park.

You performed a Christmas concert at the Smith Center in 2012, the first year of operation of our new performing arts center. What do you think of it?

I don’t think it could be any more perfect. I had heard about it from fans in the Las Vegas area, that it was an incredible performing arts center, so my expectations were high. It is a glorious venue. I expected a lot, and it delivered big time at the Christmas show in look, feel and sound. Most importantly, though, everyone wins, and to be invited back for this summer show and to take that stage again is an honor.

The ads say you’re bringing saxy back? What exactly is saxy?

(Laughs) I don’t know if I said that! We’re four saxophone players — a foursome. Last year, we made this record that celebrates the Golden Era of Music, bands like Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears and James Brown. When they were on the airwaves, their tight-horn sections perked up my ears as a kid, and I wanted to pick up the sax. We created this album to celebrate that era. For Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot and me, we had the time of our lives recording this record and touring. It’s our musical DNA.

What can fans expect from your show in Las Vegas?

The show from start to finish is a trip down memory lane, but in a new way, sexy and summery. Maybe that’s where saxy comes from? New medleys and solo songs, songs from the “Summer Horns” album, songs from these great bands like Sly & The Family Stone and Kool & The Gang. It’s high energy and with an all-star band of eight people. It will be a lot of fun and a lot of smiles.

Click to enlarge photo

Dave Koz.

Dave Koz and Friends

Dave Koz and Friends

Why a second tour with Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot?

We were on the bus after our last gig last Sept. 25, and there was this palpable feeling. We were so excited that we made it through the summer, sold out shows, excited and bummed at the same time about it being the last gig. Was there an impetus to do this again? I asked, and it was an immediate yes from everyone!

A favorite moment from the first tour?

When we headlined the Hollywood Bowl. Taking the stage, leading the stage, it was so nerve-wracking with thousands of people there, a place of iconic performers. It was so awesome coming off the stage knowing that we had killed it. It was a great time and very special since I grew up in Los Angeles. I’m actually going back there to see “Hair” the night after I perform in Las Vegas.

Do you get to Las Vegas often? If so, what do you like to do here?

My family traveled to Las Vegas all the time — Mom and Dad loved Las Vegas. As a kid, we went twice a year; it was a vacation in the summertime before there was a lot to do for families. Mom loved slot machines, and Dad was a blackjack player. We stayed at the Riviera and other places. It wasn’t very traditional, but we spent Thanksgiving Weekend in Las Vegas — not the most wholesome place for the most wholesome of holidays.

I’ve traveled to Las Vegas for so many years, 40 years now. I’ve seen it grow — CityCenter, Wynn. Las Vegas has a very special place in my heart. My parents have passed, so when I hang out there and see shows, it reminds me of the times I spent there.

Who are some of your favorite artists you’re listening to right now?

Aloe Blacc; I love his album. Gordon Goodwin; it’s a big-band album. I love Brazilian music and world music. With the “Summer Horns” project, I got to work with some of my favorite people and talents. I’m working on a Christmas album — I’m actually in the music mastering lab finishing it up right now — and it is an unbelievable duet list: India Arie, Fantasia, Gloria Estefan, Eric Benet, Kenny G. It was my first time working with him. And Stevie Wonder. This is a dream come true; the best Christmas present ever.

Anyone with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I love to collaborate live or in the studio; that’s what keeps me going. I would love to work with Elton John. I think the world of that guy, and he’s a musical junkie, too. Young people like jazz pianist Robert Glasper. Janelle Monae, love her. Alicia Keys; she’s so talented.

Tell me one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you?

I have two things: I love M&M’s, my favorite right now are the pretzel M&Ms. And I do a crossword puzzle before bed; it makes me sleepy.

It’s been a decade since you came out publicly in The Advocate. I know that this is a wide-ranging question, but how did it affect your career? For better or worse?

That’s a lovely thing to ask, and I’m happy to answer it. As a public figure, I never thought that it would happen. But at some point, I thought, “I guess this is going to happen now.” I was worried, but no matter what, I’m not willing to live my life without playing with a full deck. I said that I’d be living two lives, and I’m not going to do that.

Let the chips fall where they fall. All the things that I worried about didn’t materialize. In fact, everything got better living out in the open with honesty and integrity. Everything improved. Being gay and out became a positive in life, being authentic, acknowledging it, living it, incorporating it. It is always a positive, and everything improved.

Your successful career includes seven No. 1 albums. Other goals now?

It if all ends tomorrow, I would have two words to say: Thank you. Dreams come true. This is all gravy, and I love gravy. I’m going to keep pouring it on.

Dave Koz and Friends’ “Summer Horns” is at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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