Kenny G blends the personal with the musical
Saxophonist Kenny G is one of the most successful musicians of our time, with 75 million albums sold worldwide. He's famous for his soft jazz and adult contemporary style, which blends in jazz, Latin and pop elements — and his long high notes.
While he has a ton of repertoire to play at concerts, he makes sure to include the personal stories that give an extra dimension to the experience.
“I always put myself in the place of a person going to a concert, because I go to concerts,” he says. “Everyone wants a backstage pass.”
Kenny G will solo with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops led by Lawrence Loh at concerts June 13 to 16 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.
“Some of our songs have really great orchestrations,” he says. “Some were original when we first recorded them, some done more recently. ‘Loving You' will, I think, be a great opener. We'll also do an Olympic theme that never saw the light of day. It's one of those things. You send it in, and it didn't receive any attention. But I'm proud of it.”
Other repertoire likely will include “Desafinado,” “Forever in Love,” “My Heart Will Go On,” “Someday Over the Rainbow” and “Havana.”
Kenneth Bruce Gorelick grew up in Seattle in a “very urban and interracial neighborhood.” Rhythm and blues was all around him, but he didn't label it that way, or any way at all.
“It was part of my music,” he says. “I gravitated toward beautiful saxophone tones, soulful melodies and arpeggios. My goal was to become a clone of Grover Washington Jr. Unfortunately for me, I had my own tone at 17. I was frustrated and wondered why I couldn't sound like Grover. I got lucky with what I thought was a fault because it's a useful achievement to have a recognizable sound.”
After nine years playing in bands, he went solo in 1982 when he signed with Arista Records. In the following years, he had a string of big hit albums, including “G Force,” “Gravity,” “Duotones” and “Breathless.”
In 1997, he made the Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest note, 45 minutes and 47 seconds performed at J&R Music World in New York City. He used circular breathing, in which air is taken in through the nose at the same time air pressure through the mouth causes the saxophone's reed to vibrate and make sound. He admits it was “very painful” toward the end of that note.
“I still practice three hours every day. I have for 45 years. I work really hard. I'm not up there because my hair looks good,” he says. “I tell my children, the reason I'm doing what I'm doing is because of what you see — me practicing from 8 to 11 every morning. I'm lucky I've had great support from people like Clive Davis. But I've practiced really hard, and that's what works.”
Not that he would deny he's been lucky. He was one of the early investors in Starbucks, fourth or fifth after his uncle, who was the first investor.
Music isn't his only passion. Kenny G has loved golf since he was a boy, and says one of the biggest thrills of his life was to play golf with Jack Nicholson before giving a performance with Nicholson in the front row. He says that day he was more nervous playing music than golf.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Jazz Appreciation Month kicks off in Pittsburgh on a new note
- Timeless Moody Blues make stop at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall
- Neil Diamond still on ‘Melody Road’ at 74
- Bach concert in Shadyside celebrates devotion for Good Friday
- Big names highlight Three Rivers Arts Festival’s 2015 musical lineup
- Singer Joni Mitchell hospitalized in Los Angeles
- Faddis trumpets the subtleties, nuances of jazz
- Barry Manilow plays Pittsburgh ‘one last time’
- Ryan’s music draws from Ireland, U.S. shores
- Hampton music lovers pay it forward with traveling musicians
- Orozco-Estrada to debut with Pittsburgh Symphony