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Two of the nation s top smooth-jazz artists are teaming up for a summer tour that kicks off this week, not in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but in Ohio.
"If it works in Ohio, it works everywhere," Dave Koz said of his Side by Side tour with Brian Culbertson.
The jazz duo comes to the Valentine Theatre today following stops in Van Wert yesterday and in Kettering last Friday .
Koz, 46, said in a recent interview that he and Culbertson are hoping to build on the success they ve enjoyed on the road in previous shows.
"We ve probably done three or four tours together over the years, but this is the first time we ve decided to really be collaborators and showcase two artists. That s why this is called the Side by Side tour," he said.
He described the 36-year-old musician as "a young guy with tons of energy, a very electric performer and a great songwriter."
Culbertson, from Decatur, Ill., has topped the contemporary jazz charts with his albums "Nice & Slow," "It s On Tonight," and his latest, "Bringing Back the Funk."
Koz, who hails from Encino, Calif., in L.A. s San Fernando Valley, studied piano and drums as a child before switching to the saxophone at age 13 in hopes of joining his older brother s band.
He earned a degree in mass communications from UCLA before devoting his efforts to music full-time and was signed by Capitol Records, releasing his self-titled debut disc in 1990.
Although Koz started out concentrating on the alto saxophone, he said he enjoys the different artistic expressions that come from playing tenor and soprano sax.
"I guess you kind of get known for the instrument you start out on, but I ve had some of my hit songs on soprano and tenor as well," he said.
Some critics have called Koz "the second coming of David Sanborn," a comparison that Koz considers an honor.
"I ll take it. He s one of my main influences growing up," Koz said. "He was a trendsetter on the instrument for sure. He really was the first person in the modern music world to play like he plays, which is a real pop approach. And whatever he did, he did with tremendous class and musicality. On solo records, with other people s music and records, everywhere David Sanborn shows up, no matter what the instances was, he was the epitome of class and elegance. Every note was perfect."
In a career spanning nearly two decades, Koz has scored hits with such songs as "Castle of Dreams," "Together Again," and "All I See Is You."
He has worked with such notable artists as Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Luther Vandross.
He also has recorded with U2 and Dean Martin, although not in person.
"I played with U2 on Rattle and Hum. I wasn t on the album per se, but I played on one of the remixes with B.B. King on When Love Comes to Town. I didn t meet U2 at the time but I can say that I did play with them."
His recording with Dean Martin was released in 2007, nearly a dozen years after the singer s death.
"We recorded that at Capitol Records Studio A, which is where he recorded most of his music. Sinatra, the Beatles, the Beach Boys all recorded in that studio. When you walk through that corridor down to the studio you can feel the history," Koz said.
Martin s voice was in his headphones and as he played the sax, "it was weird because I felt like I had Dean Martin and the band right there."
Koz recently switched record labels and is working on new material for an album tentatively set for release late this year.
"After 20 years with Capitol, I just signed with Concord Music Group Norman Lear s company," he said. "Over the last few years, they ve brought their label to a whole new level. They ve really focused on quality and real music. That s the new home of Paul McCartney, Vanessa Williams, Joni Mitchel, and James Taylor. And their commitment to jazz has been documented for years and years."
He said the record business is "in this very strange new world right now and nobody knows where it s going."
Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson s Side by Side tour comes to the Valentine Theatre at 7 p.m. today. Tickets, which are $35, $52, $62, and $75, are available at the theater s box office and by calling 419-242-2787 from noon until showtime.
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