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Jazz Musician Dave Koz on Going Silver and Gay Cruising

Jazz Musician Dave Koz on Going Silver and Gay Cruising

Dave Koz
Photo by Irvan Risnandar

As he prepares for a return to the Hollywood Bowl and headlining a musical cruise, the out Grammy nominee reflects on his genre and growing older.

LGBTQ+ musicians are well-represented in dance, pop, and folk, with everyone from Billy Porter to Troye Sivan to Brandi Carlisle finding success and accolades. Jazz is not strongly associated with LGBTQ+ artists, but saxophonist Dave Koz is an outlier. An out gay musician for years, Koz has found success on the charts with 12 number 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, nine Grammy nominations, and several performances for presidents.

Following last year's release of his holiday album, Christmas Ballads, Koz is now in the midst of traveling the globe, headlining the Dave Koz & Friends Summer Horns 2023 tour, featuring other sax legends like Candy Dulfer and Eric Darius as well as vocalist Maysa. The tour rolls into the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles Sunday, marking Koz's 10th appearance at the legendary venue. The tour will move to the Mediterranean in the spring, with the (sold-out) Dave Koz and Friends at Sea voyage, traveling around Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt.

Koz recently connected with us on performing at the Bowl, his silver locks, and getting queer people into the dulcet sounds of jazz.

Dave Koz and Cory Wong // “ Together Again"

Congratulations on your 10th show at the Hollywood Bowl — what’s special about this venue?
Growing up in Los Angeles, my parents always insisted on taking my brother, sister, and I to the Hollywood Bowl. We saw all different kinds of shows there, and the venue made this profound impact on me from a very young age. And even though we've headlined there a bunch of times now, I still feel this overwhelming privilege taking that stage. It's a place like no other ... almost like the West Coast version of Carnegie Hall or something. Beyond special, every single time.

You’re headlining a musical cruise next year in the Mediterranean. It’s not a gay cruise per se, but do you expect to encounter many LGBTQ+ cruisers?
Ha! No, it's not a gay cruise. I've never taken one, and I'd like to! But I will say that our cruises attract a very diverse group of guests. Our shared love of music is what binds this group together, but we have everyone — young/old, gay/straight, Republicans/Democrats, all races and religions — and for one week, we all get along and support and nurture each other. It's amazing to see. And yes, our gay clientele is actually growing.

I’m a gay man who loves jazz but I feel like an outlier. How did you get into jazz? And how do you sell it to the unconvinced?
I think the best way to be inspired is to see this music live. It's one thing to listen to a record or a Spotify playlist, and a totally different experience to see a band killing it on stage live. It can be an electrifying experience, even with jazz. We're starting to see a lot of younger people at shows, which is really gratifying. There's a whole new group of young instrumentalists capturing the attention of people in their 20s and 30s. For me, learning to play the saxophone when I was 13 became the natural way for me of exploring jazz. And I've been on that path now for almost 60 years! It never ends. It just gets deeper and more interesting.

Silly question: You’ve now gone gloriously silver. How does it feel?
Funny. I dyed my hair religiously for like 25 years, petrified of going gray. I already had one coming-out as gay. I fought the next coming-out as gray for a very long time. Then one day in 2017, I just said, "f*ck it" and let it go. One of the most freeing things I've ever done, and the unthinkable happened — I got compliments on my gray! I've never looked back since. Being a "silver daddy" has its perks.

Dave Koz & Friends will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, with more dates following throughout the country. Click here for more details.

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