Dave Koz and Larry Graham together make for a powerful show

Published on March 31st, 2021

Offer legendary saxman Dave Koz the chance to play with a friend, someone talented or a person he is entertained by and he will not likely pass up the chance. Put them all together and you have famed guitarist Larry Graham and Koz together at Thornton Winery this Saturday and Sunday as part of the 2017 Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz Concert Series.

“I’ve known him a number of years, and I was playing the Hollywood Bowl and he and his band went on directly before us and I learned you do not follow Larry Graham,” he laughed. ”So, I figured if you can’t beat him, join him!”

Of course, Koz is pretty modest considering his legacy. He recorded his first album 25 years ago, has had nine Grammy nominations, nine Number One albums on the jazz charts, numerous involvement with charity groups, especially Starlight Children’s Foundation, a radio show, a restaurant and his own wine.

And he’s pretty humble, never failing to heap praise on others.

“Larry has come on three cruises and he’s an incredible performer and a living legend, having been with Sly and the Family Stone and Prince,” he said. “That man changed the course of music and just changed the way bass is played.”

And they are now touring together.

“This year it’s kind of a nice opportunity because instead of the way we structured songs in past where we were on the stage together, Larry doesn’t want to come and go so he stays out until the end of the show,” he said. “I come out with the band and play a mini set and get some momentum.”

It gives him a chance to work in other songs that maybe aren’t as common on a Koz show.

“Our very first song is on the very first album called ‘Give it Up’ and we have thrown in a couple of surprises,” he said. “What I really love this year is a tribute to Al Jarreau because sadly he passed a couple months before, so we did that on the cruise and lifted his spirit up in music. He was so wonderful. He gave us so much music so we decided to do a tribute in this show.”

And he can see from the reaction the power of the music.

“I can see it when we play it, the look on people’s faces and it’s a nice feeling,” he said. “It will go over great at Thornton because Al was a regular there.”

Koz has for a long time been involved in a lot of ventures designed to make people happy.

“We have two cruises in 2017 (and two more in 2018) and we have been able to raise $150,000 for Starlight through that generosity,” he said. “The wine is doing great and is available online for ordering directly so that has given us an opportunity to raise money as well.”

Of course, there is also the restaurant.

“The restaurant is now called Citizen, and sadly there is no more music, which we tried before,” he said. “Now it is a restaurant and bar and it is doing great.”

All of these elements of his life are challenging, and that is just the way he likes it.

“I think the draw for me on this magic carpet ride is that the thrill hasn’t left me and I can keep nurturing that,” he said. “So, the cruises we do, the summer tour that concludes at Thornton, two days later we are going to Asia with a different band playing different music and I am thinking, ‘Why did I do that!’”

And that’s only the beginning,

“I come home from that I go to Europe with another band and we follow that up with the Christmas tour with a different band and artists,” he said. “It keeps me from getting bored and keeps my mind agile and the end by-product is it keeps it interesting for the fans so this way it keeps things interesting. I love being challenged, pushed and pulled in different directions. It just gives you more opportunities to stretch, keeps you relevant.”

After graduating for UCLA, Koz immediately joined Bobby Caldwell’s band and became a big name in the world of recording sessions before debuting with his own self-title album. Since then he has been a mainstay on the charts and a hugely influential musician.

“This is my 27th year, non-stop in a very fickle business, one where you have to be able to morph,” he said. “I still enjoy it and travel can get crazy, but beyond that the shows are such a reward.”

Of course, Koz has always been about the idea that music can take people to new places and pull them away from others, at the same time bringing people together.

“With the amount of divisiveness now, I’ve never been more honored to be able to play music and remind people of the essence of humanity,” he said. “There’s nothing more powerful or a uniting force than music and I’m very humbled by it and honored to be a part of that.”

And he continues to draw people from all ages, including young.

“If we get the young people then something’s going very right or very wrong,” he laughed.

For more information on Dave Koz cruises or wine, visit www.DaveKoz.com


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