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A New Sonic Landscape From Saxman Koz

Jazz: Newport festival headliner's broad tastes and influences--from Stan Getz to Cannonball Adderley--shape his latest, 'Off the Beaten Path.'

May 09, 1997|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ask big-selling pop saxman Dave Koz to name his own favorite sax players and you might be surprised by the answer.

"Stan Getz, definitely, and Phil Woods," replies Koz, who headlines the Newport Beach Jazz Festival on Sunday. "And Charlie Parker. I just immersed myself in his music when I was in college, memorized all the solos--just like every other sax player."

One might have expected Koz to name David Sanborn or Maceo Parker instead of such mainstreamers. Forget it.

"I love Getz's playing so much," he said on the phone last weekend from a gig in Fort Lauderdale. "I can turn him on any time of the day. Lots of times you can get tired of hearing saxophone. There are so many players out there today. But Getz is so soothing, there's such warmth about his playing. I just adore him.

"Phil [Woods], like Parker, is more of a modern-day sax player. His ability to play straight-ahead in crossover style music is incredible. He played the best pop saxophone solo ever, on Billy Joel's 'Just the Way You Are.' "

Koz went on to name others, from Tom Scott, Grover Washington Jr. and Kirk Whalum to Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt. It became apparent that his tastes are wider than his first two albums indicated.

His latest album, "Off the Beaten Path" (Capitol), does reflect his broad tastes. Unlike the previous releases, which featured Koz wailing away on backbeat and synthesizer wash, "Beaten Path" finds him backed by steel guitar, accordion, mandolin, Hammond organ, harmonica and cello among other instruments. Even acoustic guitar whiz Leo Kottke plays on one track.

"It's a significant change musically," acknowledged Koz, who lives in Sausalito. "The idea was to come up with a new sonic landscape in which to place the saxophone. It's great to hear it immersed in this wonderful new mixture of sounds, which to me is much more satisfying than synthesizers.

"It's been something of a long process to introduce this new music to the people familiar with my earlier records," he added. "But the audiences who hear it really seem to like it."

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