Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Thursday, August 24, 2017


[This review originally appeared at back... whenever it appeared there.]
by Dave Koz
released: 2003
If a person thinks that this is great Jazz, it is only beKOZ they have never listened carefully to Louis Armstrong's mournful trumpet on Moon River; Joe Morello's qwazy, quirky drumming in Take Five; Ben Webster's deeply soulful tenor sax on Bye Bye Blackbird; or Irvin Fazola's far too brief but sweetly swingin' clarinet solo in Glenn Miller's Doin' The Jive.
A friend of mine recently loaned SAXOPHONIC by Dave Koz to me, thinking that I would like it. I won't reveal the identity of Melanie Felson because it might embarrass her, but I returned her CD with a yellow Post-It note attached saying, "Hate is not strong enough a word."
I managed to listen through THE SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND before deciding I would not subject myself to any more of this. Our individual karma applies the corrective measures to the transgressions in our lives as a natural consequence of cosmic law; self-flagellation is unnecessary!
Here in the country's 5th largest megalopolis, we are devoid of high culture. Phoenicians believe that Taco Bell serves authentic ethnic cuisine, and that the library contains too many books and not enough DVDs. Our most highly esteemed artisans create those lucite-encased scorpion paperweights, and we are proud of the fact that we are the only state to feature Roadrunner on our Roadkill Menus. We don't have a LEGITIMATE Jazz station here, but there is 95.5 KYOT. (Get it? COYOTE! Only here in Phoenix are sports teams and radio stations named after scrawny, scavenging desert dogs!) If the F.C.C. ever banned Kenny G and Dave Koz from the airwaves, KYOT would be forced off-the-air.
Comparing the muzak of Koz on SAXOPHONIC to Jazz is akin to comparing Kraft Velveeta to aged, Wisconsin cheddar; or Spam to a freshly sliced Easter ham! It's just processed, predigested, puerile puree! I can't find a single original or emotionally genuine phrase here; just mawkishness infested with synthesized drum and bass programming polished to a highly commercialized sheen, making it so slick that it slides off the CD player's spindle! This is "McJazz" at its unhealthiest.
In the liner notes, Koz wrote, "My saxophone took me on quite a musical journey this time out -- from the sound of the underground clubs of Europe to the beats of American Hip-Hop." In other words: exactly what he thought would SELL! SELL! SELL!
Nope, I'm not a Jazz Snob. I wouldn't deny this "music" its right to exist, nor its fans their right to listen and enjoy it. I would only hope that they would expand their musical horizons to discover more honest, heartfelt music.
Suppose you're ready to move beyond KOZAK, but you are not sure you're ready for the challenging time signatures of a Dave Brubeck. I've got the perfect musical "bridge" for you -- The PAT METHENY GROUP! Pick up LETTER FROM HOME, STILL LIFE TALKING, or FIRST CIRCLE -- any one of these three. Trust me on this one! Put it into your car player and let it repeat over and over again for as long as it takes. 
It may all sound alike initially, but on the day that you find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly whistling or humming the distinctive and wonderful melody of each musical piece, you'll know that you finally "got it!" Then you'll think: "Stephen T. McCarthy IS a blockhead, but he DID turn me on to some nice music!" Feel free to send yer gratitude in the form of a monetary donation to my Retirement Fund. No denomination too large!
Cheerio, my good Brothers and Sisters. Cheerio!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy


  1. Soooo, do you like this guy's music? Are you reccommending we buy it and give it a whirl?

    1. Oh, by all means! Buy it beKOZ I sez so and beKOZ I would never steer you wrong.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      [Link:) Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends

  2. Hey there Stephen,
    Long time, it seems! How be you?? I'm just coming up for air from getting my Mom settled into her new place. So much to do! And then we hunkered down at my place over the weekend, not sure what Harvey was going to bring us here. We just got a ton of rain and winds. No real damage to speak of (downed tree limb that wound up in my neighbor's yard but fortunately missed hitting the fence, some lattice that was screwed into the brick got yanked out by the wind, and a flooded dog-run). We were lucky. Some other Austinites weren't so and experienced washed out bridges and flash flooding...but certainly nothing like all those poor souls in Houston and on the coast. OMG, it's just horrible what's happening there.
    It was crazy with the dogs trying to get them to go out in the blowing pouring rain to do their "thing". I only had six dogs here so that wasn't too bad. And they finally relented and came off the covered deck after I stood out in the middle of the yard and coaxed them out. I can't even tell you how many times I changed clothes over those three days. Every time I went out, I got soaked to the skin. The dogs ran out, did their business and ran back in for cover. I had to slop around in the marshland and pickup all the poops! But you should see how green the grass is now! Sun was shining today. Although we're expecting some more rain tomorrow I think.

    Anyway, as I've been typing here to you, I'm listening to the Koz album. Need you ask if I like it? Of course I do! I know that's no surprise to you...especially considering that you put Dave Koz and Kenny G in the same sentence.

    I will say though, I did not at all care for the song you mentioned, "The Sound of the Underground." I do however like most of the rest. Not crazy about Saxaphonic but love the first track, "Honey-Dipped" and "All I See is You" and several others. From what you wrote, it seemed like the only song you listened to was the Underground one. Did you listen to any others? But even if you did, I would bet that you wouldn't like it. You just don't like this "smooth-jazz" sound...

    To be fair, I'm listening now to Pat Metheny Group, as you suggested. Right this second, I'm on "Third Wind" from Still Life Talking: it's too frenetic for me. The First Circle album's "Forward March" got on my nerves big time, maybe even hurt my ears. "First Circle" (the song) isn't bad. I listened to a few tracks from the Letter from Home album and I like some of them. Listening to "Slip Away" right now and enjoying it. I definitely like Slip Away...
    I can see why you'd recommend the Pat Metheny Group as a bridge to the more pure jazz sounds.

    Overall, I like Dave Koz better. Maybe it's the sax I'm into? Pat Metheny doesn't utilize sax...or at least not in the songs I listened to so far.

    From what little I've heard of traditional jazz, it's just not what I'd consider "relaxing" music. There's too much going on, it seems. It is more uptight sounding, if that makes sense. I'm drawn to the smooth jazz sound because it's what I want playing on a Sunday morning while I'm drinking flavored coffee and reading the paper...

    To put it in a visual context: I see traditional jazz as granite and smooth jazz as marble: the granite is much more busy and cluttered in appearance; it's hectic, excessive and overelaborate, whereas the marble is mellow, simple, creamy and tranquil. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your review of Dave Koz's album. Now I think I'll buy it! :)

    Hope all is well in your world. Don't be a stranger...

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. PART 1:

      HA!-HA! [:o)}
      Oh, MICHELE, your comment made me laugh-out-loud -- literally!

      Not the wind and rain and dog poops part, but your analysis of the Dave Koz album, etc. You do realize, of course, that the purpose of this review was to warn people NOT to waste their money on this album? It was a goodwill gesture on my part, not wanting to see any suckers get taken.

      The three labels I filed this review under were "Jazz", "Music", and "Crap". When you have time, you might want to click on "Crap" and see if I've filed anything else under that label that you might like.

      HA!-HA! I'm just joking. Please don't take offense. You know how I am.

      OK, in all SERIOUSNESS now... I am HONESTLY PLEASED that I was able to turn you onto some music that you enjoy, even if I panned it.

      As I wrote in this review, "I'm not a Jazz snob". There are plenty of them out there. I also love the Blues, and there are a lot of "Blues snobs" out there, too. (Funny, I don't think there's such a thing as a "Rock snob".) And then there are just plain "Snobs". That would be Frasier and Niles Crane. :o)

      The Jazz and Blues snobs bug me because I think they're pretentious poseurs.

      Here's the thing about Jazz and why I think it gets a bad rap: Just as there are many types of Rock music (Pop, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk, Country-Rock, Prog-Rock, etc.), there are just as many different types of Jazz (Big Band, Cool, Hot, Be-Bop, Jazz Vocals, Smooth, Jazz-Rock, etc.)

      If someone said "Traditional Rock", that would be meaningless to most people. What would that mean? Early Rock, like Rockabilly? Or '50s Rock like Bill Haley? Fats Domino? British Invasion stuffs? Or '70s Rock like Bob Seger?

      I think the expression "Traditional Jazz" is just as confusing. If "traditional" means first, then we'd be talking about the 1920s and New Orleans marching type music. Which then gave way to more improvisational Jazz with Louis Armstrong's first groups.

      I believe the problem is that for a lot of people, the first TYPE of Jazz they get exposed to they may not like, but then they begin thinking that's what "Jazz" iz and they decide they simply don't like Jazz. Rather than realizing it's just that one single TYPE of Jazz they don't like.

      Just as I don't like every type of Rock (e.g., Prog-Rock, Heavy Metal, most Punk Rock), I don't like every type of Jazz (e.g., Be-Bop of the "play-as-fast-as-you-can" variety -- like much of Charlie Parker's more "innovative" work).


    2. PART 2:

      Believe it or not, I actually dig a good amount of "Smooth Jazz" (see my review for Chris Botti's "A Thousand Kisses Deep" album). But some of those artists come off to me like soulless commercialism. And that would be your Kenny G's and Dave Koz's. But if other folks dig 'em, that's fine with me.

      A lot of Jazz is really complex and it takes awhile for one's mind to wrap around it and really "get it". It's so rich that it requires repeated listening. It's not like a lot of Rock where you hear it once or twice and you've got it because everything is kind of on the surface. Much of Jazz I would classify as "the modern world's Classical music". Like Classical music, it's often intricate, with lots of musical ideas going on all the time.

      And that's why I said in this review, regarding the Pat Metheny Group: "Put it into your car player and let it repeat over and over again for as long as it takes."

      Your remark about PMG's track "Forward March" also made me laugh because that one is notorious. It's absolutely discordant and awful, but by design. A lot of Metheny's biggest fans think it was intended as an anti-War statement (e.g., when you "Forward March" into war it's a terrible thing). I ALWAYS skip that track and go right to "Yolanda, You Learn", which is delicious. "Forward March" is unlistenable and meant to be so.

      Let me recommend a couple things that I think you'll dig, based on what you've written here. These are things I also really like...

      Try the album "KIND OF BLUE" by Miles Davis. It's regarded as one of the all-time "classic" Jazz albums. It's relaxing and easy on the ears, but it's also great Jazz which is deceptively complex.

      Check out a band called SPYRO GYRA. It's a kind of Jazz-Rock sound that I think you'll like.

      Try to find and listen to the albums "BEN WEBSTER MEETS OSCAR PETERSON" and "BEN AND SWEETS" (Ben Webster with "Sweets" Edison). Webster was a brilliant tenor sax player and, in my opinion, the greatest player of ballads in the history of Jazz. But that cat could really "Swing", too!

      I think you'd really like the album "TEQUILA" by guitarist Wes Montgomery. (I've got a review of that one here on this blog. It was one of the first reviews I posted here.)

      And last but not least, give a listen to BRIAN AUGER, either his solo stuffs or his group stuffs with THE OBLIVION EXPRESS. Much of that is also a Jazz-Rock style. In fact, it was really his live version of Wes Montgomery's original "BUMPIN' ON SUNSET" that first made me sit up straight and really start listening to Jazz. Up until the day I heard that, I was almost exclusively a Rock music fan. But after one listening to the live "BUMPIN' ON SUNSET", my mind began to expand musically.

      Thanks for your great comment, Michele. I really enjoyed reading it. And it cracks me up that I so thoroughly panned this album which led to your happy discovery of it. Life is funny!!

      ~ Stephen

  3. Oh most definitely, I figured you'd go "NOOOOOOO!!!!" when I said I was going to go buy Dave Koz' album! :)

    What you said about the different kinds of jazz makes a lot of sense and you're right: I probably haven't explored it enough to discover what specific kind I like. The jazz that I was exposed to that I learned to call "traditional jazz" is that frenetic- scatty-manic-pinball-boinging-all-over-the-place- tightly-wound-wire-y-type jazz. Whatever type that is...

    And I'm definitely familiar with Spyro Gyra: they're from my hometown! I remember when they were first playing around Buffalo, or at least when I started hearing about them being at venues that I was frequenting (late 70s). but being the "rock snob" that I was, I didn't check them out. Though I'm very aware of them for sure. I'll have to check them out, a few decades too late...

    Something else you said struck me: "A lot of Jazz is really complex and it takes awhile for one's mind to wrap around it and really "get it". It's so rich that it requires repeated listening. It's not like a lot of Rock where you hear it once or twice and you've got it because everything is kind of on the surface. Much of Jazz I would classify as "the modern world's Classical music". Like Classical music, it's often intricate, with lots of musical ideas going on all the time."

    I read that and said, "THAT'S IT! Jazz is too smart for me! I'm more of a simple minded kind of folk... :) -- although I have heard many of the male persuasion peg me as "complicated"-- but they just weren't smart enough to get me. I'm really simple. :) Too simple for jazz apparently.
    And classical.
    I even bought a CD years ago called "Classical music for People Who Don't Like Classical Music." It was one of those compilations intended to introduce classical music to the uninitiated. I didn't like it...
    Go figure. Although I do enjoy a good Rachmaninoff piece now and then...

    Thanks for recommending all that you did. I'll definitely check into it. Not now though. I'm going to go lay down for a bit and call the HEB (grocery store) near me that is supposed to get a truck delivery of gas tonight, hopefully before midnight, so I can run out and get some real quick before it disappears. There was no gas in town today. I went to 5 gas stations and everybody was out. There's a panic ensuing around here. Needlessly, I think. But I still want my tank filled up just in case... So I'm going to go crash watch TV for an hour and hopefully by then I can go fill up. I'm going to be stuck at home this holiday weekend as I have 12 dogs coming... Getting 6 before 10am tomorrow and the rest by 1pm. At least there's no rain in the forecast...

    What are you doing this weekend? If you feel like dancin', go check out my most recent post of dance themed songs...

    Have a great Labor Day weekend! talk soon...

    1. Another terrific comment, MICHELE!

      I hope you were able to get the gasoline. Dang! Does it remind you of the 1970s gas crunch? Everything comes back around again, doesn't it?

      What you're calling "Traditional Jazz" I would call "Be-Bop", and I don't like it either. However, I have seen other people put the label of "Be-Bop" onto some Jazz recordings that I DO like and which I don't feel lose all sense of melody to outlandishly frenetic highly-caffeinated madness. Labels can often get a bit vague or cloudy. But what I have in mind is a lot of Ornette Coleman's, Charlie Parker's and Dexter Gordon's stuffs.

      Do you like THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER? That too could be placed under the "Jazz Vocals" category. And then of course there was Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. I'll bet you like some of their recordings, right? That's Jazz.

      Have you seen the movie LA LA LAND? My friend FAE gave me a copy of it for my birthday. It's a romance about a would-be actress and a Jazz musician. You might like it. What's funny is that the music in the movie that was supposedly being portrayed as "inferior" or "commercial" Jazz that the Jazz musician character dislikes, I even liked THAT, TOO! (No Jazz snob am I.)

      I think the reason I love Jazz and am just so-so about Classical music is due to the instruments each one generally features. Classical focuses most on string instruments, while Jazz is, generally, more horn-based (although it also can feature a lot of piano and guitar). I'm more horny than stringy.

      As much as I love Jazz, years ago I got a real lesson in how little I really understood it. First of all, I'm not a musician, so that didn't help matters. But, I'd purchased the album THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET AT CARNEGIE HALL (which is fabulous!) and read the liner notes.

      The liner notes were Dave Brubeck talking about what was going on with each track on the album, and it was like he was speaking Greek to me. I couldn't understand half of what was there.

      And then it got to a point where even Brubeck himself was puzzled. The liner notes about the track "IT'S A RAGGY WALTZ" says:

      We were listening to a long piano solo, and Dave seemed to be just as fascinated as I was. "Frankly," he said finally, "I don't know what I'm doing here. At first I'm in 2/4 or maybe it's 4/4 within 3/4 and then I got into double time. I'm going to have to listen to this more carefully and figure out exactly what it is that I was doing here."

      When all was said and done, "It's A Raggy Waltz" was probably Brubeck's favorite track because of the adventurous improvisation of it by all the players.

      And that's another reason I dig Jazz. Some of it is spontaneous creativity. But, yeah, occasionally even the players themselves are taken on trips they don't fully understand.

      MICHELE, I feel like dancing about once a month, usually in an unforeseen burst of energy that lasts about 30 seconds. Having no full-length mirrors, I'm under the impression that I dance as good as Gene Kelly or Michael Jackson or John Travolta for those 30 seconds!

      But I've got no big plans for the weekend, so I'll definitely make it a point to put on my white polyester suit, check out your "dance themed" post and get down with my bad, funky self.

      Stand back, everyone! STMcC is about to... "DO THE HUSTLE!!

      ~ D-FensDogG
      [Link:) Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

  4. Hey, I'm horny too! Imagine that! ;)
    Yeah, me likes dem horns! Brassy and sassy...

    Yes, I do like Manhattan Transfer. Louis Armstrong for sure. Some Billie Holiday and some Ella Fitzgerald. I caught some Ella scat singing last night when I was YouTubing and yeah, no. Not for me.

    I have not yet seen La La Land. It's on my list. I mean, I have to, right? It won so many awards! I had a chance to watch it On Demand the other night but wasn't in the mood for a musical. I have to be in a special mood for that... I'm mostly action and thriller. In fact what we watched the other night instead of LaLa Land was John Wick 2. :) That's more my speed. Ever see John Wick, 1 or 2? 1 is definitely better...

    The gas thing is crazy here. It's insane. People are going nuts. The truck never made it for the delivery at HEB last night so I called this morning and they got it in today. I figured I'd wait until after rush hour so the crowd would be died down. NOPE! The line was outrageous. Cars lined up around the block and onto the main highway. The other entrance all backed up, no one could make a left to get to the store. I had to get creative and find away around the mess. I think everybody needs to calm down and start listening to the news and the governor who is reporting that there is no gas shortage, Texas has plenty of gas and trucks are coming and all is well. But still you get these knuckleheads who are getting into fights at the pump and some nitwit redneck in a pickup truck was filling up, no shit, METAL TRASH CANS!!! WTF?! Stupid ass. Ay-yi-yi.
    And yes, it definitely reminds me of 1979 when the gas crisis hit fever-pitch. I was in New Jersey at the time.

    I'm just going to wait until next week to get gas. I don't have anywhere important to go until Tuesday and surely by then it will be back to normal.

    Have you seen any of the news reports about the price gouging going on here in the state? Dude, it's serious stuff. And what else is serious is the Texas Attorney General's office. They are coming down hard! Some store was selling cases of water for $99!! That's sick. I hate people. A Best Western hotel was charging, instead of their stated $120-$149 rate, they charged the KXAN news crew $320+ for a room. (KXAN is Austin's NBC affiliate). They turned the receipt over to the TX AG and the shit hit the fan. They demanded to see all their records and found that the hotel had overcharged 40 customers (all Harvey victims) and they had to refund all that money. Plus they lost their franchise: Best Western corporate immediately put out a press release severing ties with the franchisee. And if the AG slams them with the max fine, it's going to be a world of hurt for that owner: $20,000 for each occurrence so that's a whopping $800,000 fine! And TX law also increases that fine from $20,000 to $250,000 if the victim is over age 65. Yowsa!

    In times like this, natural disasters and such, you see the good in people as communities come together to help one another and unfortunately you also see the bad.

    Okay, I have to go deliver this birthday present. Enjoy your weekend Stephen. Had fun chatting with you here...

    1. MICHELE, I'm with you when it comes to scatting. The only person who really did it in such a way I enjoy it was Satchmo. And he only did it in short little bursts to add another element -- like a new instrument briefly punctuating the song. Others, like Ella and Mel Torme, who used it as significant parts of the song got on my nerves quickly.

      I'm also with you when it comes to musicals. Despite my being a "CONFIDENT HETEROSEXUAL", I confess that I like a good number of musicals. But I too need to be in the right mood to watch one.

      I did see John Wick-1. But Action and Thriller movies are not my thing. Put me down for Comedy, Drama, and most of all, Westerns.

      You're so right about natural disasters bringing out the best and worst of people. I read a story where Black Millennials in Houston were breaking into the abandoned homes of White people and looting them. Same with stores that had been closed up. Then they'd post photos of themselves on social media, bragging about what they were doing.

      Other Black Millennials were shooting at rescue boats being piloted by White rescuers who were trying to save people of all colors.

      But then by contrast, I found another story of an older Black man who was a former SWAT team member who was armed and single-handedly protecting his entire community from looters.

      You see the best and the worst in situations like this. Some will gouge others and try to make a profit (e.g., your story about the Best Western hotel), while other folks are giving the clothes off their backs for free to those in need.

      >>... "I hate people."

      I hear ya. I have a love / hate relationship with them also.

      Stay safe!

      I haven't felt like dancing yet (been too busy the last couple days, anyway), but the moment I do, you'll find me over at your site shakin' my groove thang. (Whatever the hell that is. Ha!)

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends


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