Nine-time Grammy nominee and Billboard chart-topping saxophonist Dave Koz is no stranger to the Napa Valley. A regular at the Mondavi summer festivals over the years, Koz returns this month to the Uptown Theatre in Napa. He will perform “Side-By-Side” with legendary bassman and vocalist Larry Graham Jr. on Saturday, Aug. 26.
On the phone from Los Angeles last week, Koz talked about his continuing connection to Napa Valley and to the world of wine. “We’ve been playing lots of wineries over the years. Most notably, we’ve done the concert series at Mondavi. Mrs. Mondavi, may she rest in peace, was a great friend for many, many years. I remember meeting Mr. Mondavi too, in the early days.”
Koz became interested enough in wine to develop his own label, KOZ Wine, seven years ago. He was motivated to create a business whose proceeds would be entirely devoted to his long-time favorite charity, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, where he has been the Global Ambassador for more than 20 years.
“The connection between music, and specifically between jazz and wine, is very solid,” Koz said. “It makes a lot of people feel good, because they just go together really, really well. It seemed like a natural progression to make some wine. And then, to be able to raise money for Starlight in the process, that’s what sealed the deal for me.”
“I love it and I drink it. Am I a wine aficionado? Absolutely not. I’ve learned a tremendous amount, though, over the years. I’ve learned how we pick our wines and the tasting process, the selecting process, how to blend. But I leave the actual nuts and bolts to the winemakers and trust them implicitly.”
Koz said he is excited about the side-by-side performance concept with artists he admires. “Last year, we did a side-by-side with one of my idols, that’s David Sanborn, the great saxophone player,” he said. “I would not be talking to you on the phone if it weren’t for David Sanborn. He was that influential in my picking up the saxophone, and my style of playing. Getting a chance to do these side-by-side tours with my musical idols, it’s like a dream come true.
“This year, we decided to go a different route, but with no less of an idol. Larry Graham was one of the architects of modern music. He was there as the bass player and one of the principals in Sly and the Family Stone. He was a pioneer of modern bass playing that basically all of R&B and funk music is based on. When he picked up that instrument, he changed the music, and not just the bass. He changed the music world completely and forever.”
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“It is so much fun, just to be able to share the stage with this wonderful and generous human being, and amazing iconic musician,” Koz said. “The music is fun because everybody knows every song. All of Larry’s songs are so identifiable. It brings people back in time, and to a simpler time. It’s just perfect for summer.”
“People have told us that this show is an unusual combination, but music has a way of bringing things together in ways that you wouldn’t expect. This tour is a perfect opportunity to bring the funk and the jazz people together into a really cohesive whole. It’s just great to watch the blend happen right before your eyes.”
At the Uptown, the band members will be Koz on saxophone, Graham on bass and vocals, Randy Jacobs on guitar, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Dave Hooper on drums, Bill Sharpe on bass and Tina Graham and Ashling “Biscuit” Cole on vocals.
Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. $60-$90. Uptown Theatre Napa. 1350 Third St., Napa. 707-259-0123. UptownTheatreNapa.com.
Hot ticket—David Sanborn to headline Blue Note’s first anniversary
Blue Note celebrates its first anniversary in Napa with six-time Grammy-winning saxophone superstar David Sanborn in six shows, Thursday–Saturday, Oct. 19-21, at 7 p.m and 9:30 p.m. $55-$125. Blue Note Napa. 1030 Main St., Napa. 707-880-2300.