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April 2007

Dave Koz
At the Movies
Capitol Records

Dave Koz’s 14-song tribute to iconic Oscar-winning movie themes has all the ingredients of a major “project.” Producer Phil Ramone. A full orchestra. An A-list of musical personalities that speaks to Koz’s stature of rising above your average smooth-jazz star: Anita Baker, Donna Summer, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Vanessa Williams. But you have to wonder who Koz is targeting this CD to, other than to his own self-professed love of cinema. There are certainly plenty of disappointed fans, who valiantly remain loyal despite Koz’s Sade-like release schedule: five albums of original material in 17 years. They remain loyal because Koz’s knack for truly memorable songs and innovative playing (listen to his “Together Again” from 1999) really have no equal in smooth jazz. But fans must recognize that there’s only so much Koz to go around as he’s an executive at a record label he cofounded, organizes annual cruises and themed tours and hosts a couple of radio shows.

Koz has never sounded better, the production is stellar and the orchestration sublime. But something keeps this cinematic excursion from connecting on a personal level, and looming above all as the reason is the depressing new genre of cover-song albums, so prevalent it’s no longer a trend. Koz’s first CD in four years is covers? Coy Judy Garland and Ingrid Bergman audio samples from The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca? And, although cinematic songs tend to be, well, cinematic in scope, the goose-bump melodies of “The Summer Knows” and “The Way We Were” tend to become cliché after 30 or 40 years of hearing them.

That said, there are a few quality moments. Koz, who is Jewish, plays with passion on the incredible emotive theme to Schindler’s List. Anita Baker and Johnny Mathis bring soul to “Somewhere” and “”The Shadow of Your Smile,” and it’s always nice to hear Donna Summer’s chops, which sound really good on “A Whole New World.”

Originally published in April 2007
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