Dave Koz is used to people butchering the spelling of his last name. But messing up his first was a new one.
“How do you misspell Dave?” laughs the six-time Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist as he tells the story of how his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — awarded this past fall in a ceremony attended by Dave Grohl, Barry Manilow and Jason Alexander, among others — nearly immortalized someone else.
“They asked me if I wanted to be there when they actually made it, put it in the sidewalk, and I live in L.A., so I drove down there and got out, and I could tell right away that something was terribly wrong,” Koz says on the phone from his hotel in El Paso.
“They had misspelled my name on the nameplate. It was Dav Koz, D-A-V. The guy was terribly embarrassed about it, but it was really not a big deal. They just came up with an E and put it on the end, and it all worked out. I’m glad I went because it turned out to be a funny story.”
The jazz musician, who comes Tuesday to Mesa on his annual holiday tour, released his debut album nearly 20 years ago, and his 1993 hit “You Make Me Smile” is among the genre’s best-known and most-played tracks ever. Earlier this decade, he was named one of People magazine’s 50 Hottest Bachelors.
Now in its 12th year, Koz’s Smooth Jazz Christmas is just one of the many balls the multimillion-selling musician juggles. In addition to touring much of the year, Koz hosts a weekday afternoon show on the Smooth Jazz Radio Network and the 15-year-old syndicated weekend radio program “Dave Koz Jazz Show.” He’ll embark on his 50th Dave Koz-branded cruise via Holland America Cruise Line in January, and he appears in the recently released video for Toby Keith’s “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song),” in memory of NBA player and jazz musician (and Koz’s friend) Wayman Tisdale.
Over the summer, Koz added winemaker to that list, releasing a line of three wines by Napa’s Vinum Cellars available exclusively in Arizona, Nevada and California Whole Foods stores. The proceeds benefit The Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit group for seriously ill kids that he’s served for almost two decades.
Before showtime in El Paso, Koz chatted with us by phone about what he’s been up to lately.
Q: Congratulations on getting your star right outside Capitol Records. Has it sunk in yet?
A: Surreal is the best way I can describe the whole thing. It’s just one of those things where you scratch your head and don’t know quite how you got there. It was probably one of the best days of my life because I was surrounded by all the people I care about most. I’m always moving forward and going somewhere, and that was a rare day to stop and look back and share it with the people who have helped me in various ways in my life. I looked back over the whole first half of my career and my life, and I really like what I saw, and it feels good to be able to say that. It was a good halfway point.
Q: Tell us about the KOZ wines that hit stores a few months ago.
A: I don’t claim to be a wine aficionado, but I do enjoy drinking it. The intersection between wine and jazz, it’s kind of like a hand and glove — they fit together very well. So it seemed like a natural progression to develop a line of wines. They’re very, very good. There’s a cab, a red blend and a white. I love the red “alto” blend; that’s my favorite, but they’re very friendly and drinkable.
Q: This year marks the 12th anniversary of your Christmas tour. What’s new about the show this time?
A: This year is extremely special because it’s a reunion tour of the original cast of characters. It’s been seven years since the five of us have been together on stage. We all know each other super well and are great friends, so that camaraderie really comes through on stage.
Q: What’s the show like?
A: This is a jazz show, so it’s very entertaining and engaging. A lot of people, when they think of musicians playing instruments, it can be a bit of a question mark. You know, they’re wondering “Will I enjoy that?” And what I enjoy most are those people being dragged along with someone else and discovering they do like it. And then, after 12 years, I suppose for some people it’s starting to fit into their holiday plans, what they do at Christmas time and, what a compliment, to become a tradition for someone.
Q: What can fans look forward to in 2010?
A: I’m going to be making a new record very early in 2010; it’ll come out in summer or fall at the latest. I’m very excited about that. And, believe it or not, I was asked to be a judge in the Miss America Pageant. What qualifications I have to do that job, I have no idea, but I said, sure, why not? I try to remain open to whatever comes my way. I’m 46. I feel like the best part of my career is maybe still to come. I don’t have a strong idea of exactly what’s coming, but I’m very excited about the possibilities and where I go from here.