Dave Koz

Saxophonic

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This likeable, ultra funky, and melodic saxman is one of the few smooth jazz performers whose consistent gold sales status, and omnipresence in the genre (including DJ'ing a morning show at one of the country's top stations, and two annual tours) makes him a crossover superstar. But his breakneck multi-media schedule is only part of the reason he can get away with only recording a new studio album every three or four years; his discs are usually so deep in picture perfect potential hit singles that Capitol can milk the album for that long with constant radio play. He has a tough act to follow here after 1999's magnificent The Dance spawned no less than five Top Five contemporary jazz singles. He doesn't disappoint for a second, packing this sax-intensive collection with hook after hook amidst a mix of edgy funk, mid-tempo chill vibes, and some unique sonic experiments, including sampling old jazz tracks on the crazy-making, hip-hop scratcher "Sound of the Underground," featuring some nifty harmonies from trumpeter Chris Botti, and a colorful move into house music with "Only Tomorrow Knows," that may surprise those who always expect him to stay in the mainstream. Whereas The Dance was cover-happy, Saxophonic stands strong on all original tunes, broken up four at a time by Acts One, Two, and Three, which are defined by the overall vibe of the section. Act One is funkified, slickly produced (Jeff Lorber and Brian Culbertson had a hand), heavy on the horn doubling and soul, (represented by the irresistible opener "Honey-dipped"). Act Two has more ambience, and fresh, mid-tempo attitude, a balance of the feisty electronic hip-hop crackle of the title track, and the lush romance of "Definition of Beautiful," featuring vocals by labelmate Javier. Act Three offers the aforementioned experiments, plus a torchy ballad and a colorful thumping duet with Marc Antoine. The Curtain Call ballad, "One Last Thing," is a sweet, gospel-flavored sax-piano duet produced by Brian McKnight. One curious disappointment flutters amidst all the success here; the tracks that advertise contributions by McKnight and Bobby Caldwell only use them in a minor backing capacity. Yes, this makes things more "saxophonic," but why bring such talent on the journey if they're hardly present in the mix? That gripe aside, with the abundance of future hits here, Koz can probably hold off till 2006 at least.

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