Dave Koz sometimes gets a bit of a rum deal, often being written off as just another smooth jazzer, or much worse, as an alternative to Kenny G while you wait for him to get another release out. Blessed with a smooth tone, Dave Koz actually is smooth jazz, but crucially he plays smooth jazz with passion.
‘At The Movies’ shows nicely the passion he can bring to a project. Backed by a full-size orchestra, he also manages to snatch a strong array of interesting guest vocalists, and he plays his heart out. Barry Manilow seems an odd choice for ‘Moon River’, but he passes the grade surprisingly with flying colours, and Vanessa Williams, who really should be much bigger than she currently is, gives us a great vocal performance to rival Barbra Streisands’ more famous one.
Elsewhere Johnny Mathis and his still superb voice make a dynamic ‘Shadow Of Your Smile’, with Chris Botti too turning up to lend his gorgeous trumpet tone to proceedings. Disco star Donna Summer even convinces with what could have been a sentimental disaster on ‘A Whole New World’ (from Disney’s ‘Aladdin’).
On the downside, Anita Baker fluffs ‘Somewhere’. Not having the vocal talent needed, there’s never been a song she couldn’t oversing, but here she overdoes it completely, and what should be soaring instead comes over as over-wrought. Also, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ using a sampled Judy Garland comes over as horribly mawkish (who started this ‘collaborating with dead singers’ craze?), although Koz’s saxophone is pretty much perfect. Worst of all though, ‘It Might Be You’ sounds like India.Arie has never heard the song before and is phoning in a karaoke performance, with the words flashing up on a screen for the first time as she sings it.
Of the instrumentals ‘As Time Goes By’ and ‘Cinema Paradiso Suite’ simply swoon against Koz’s on-the-ball sax. On the other hand, ‘Schindlers List Theme’ tends to drag and the awesome ‘The Pink Panther’ just seems too cute and ultimately mis-placed.
Koz’s saxophone playing on ‘At The Movies’ is the real star. Drawing inspiration from the mostly timeless songs, he comes up with the goods which should be embraced by both his fan base and most likely also a new audience. Unfortunately not all of the song choices are great and some of the decisions made are just questionable, but those songs that do work though, work beautifully, and importantly are just great fun.