Kenny G smoothly controls Pittsburgh Symphony Pops stage
Popular saxophonist Kenny G was a commanding presence Thursday night at Heinz Hall in the first of four concerts that provide a strong big-name finale for the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops season.
He began by entering from the rear of the hall, playing as he strolled down the left aisle. He uses a snap-on microphone which connects to an excellent sound system, but as the bell of his soprano saxophone was for a moment no more than five feet away from me, I can report his unamplified sound is surprisingly gentle.
Smooth style is Kenny G's trademark, one which draws upon absolute technical security including circular breathing. Throughout the concert, one could see his cheeks puff out to maintain air pressure through the instrument while he took in air through his nose.
He held one note for a couple of minutes, even waving to the audience with fingers not being used for the pitch being played. As he held the note, he walked through a row of seats, with people rising to let him pass, to the right aisle and then up to the stage, where he continued holding it. In fact, Kenny G holds the record for longest-held note, at more than 45 minutes.
Unlike many Pops concerts that offer medleys, Kenny G's preference is to riff on tunes he knows the audience is looking forward to, such as “Loving You,” “Havana” and “Forever in Love.”
While he mainly played soprano, he took up tenor sax to play “Desafinado” in tribute to Stan Getz. He played a bit of “The Girl From Ipanema,” Getz's best-known hit, then neatly wove fragments of it into his performance of “Desafinado.”
While it can be said that Kenny G's style made whatever he played his own, it also is true that every number sounded alike to some degree.
He brought five musicians with him for the concerts: Robert Damper, piano; Daniel Bejarano, drums; Vail Johnson, bass; John Raymond, guitar; and Ron Powell, percussion. All have been playing with him for 25 years; Damper is a friend from high school and took a fine long solo.
Kenny G has an appealing stage presence, exuding a calm enthusiasm and definite sense of humor. He shared some excellent stories, including about the night he slept in the Lincoln bedroom in the White House.
But the most memorable moment came when he selected the winner of a raffle for a soprano saxophone he was giving away. The man and his wife came on stage and sat in two chairs brought out for them as Kenny G played from a few feet away.
Kenny G will give away a saxophone at each of the remaining concerts.
This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. June 15 and 2:30 p.m. June 16 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $108.
Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org
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.
- Tickets on sale July 10 for Lady Antebellum at First Niagara
- Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa combine genres
- Barbershoppers bring harmony to Pittsburgh
- Drummer Zeigler returns to Monaca to play with band The Forty Nineteens
- Keystone Division Band to perform at Greensburg’s Palace Theatre
- Pittsburgh Symphony recordings reach wide audience
- Train’s push for ‘Bulletproof Picasso’ picks up steam
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Music for the Spirit comes to CMU
- Tickets for Diana Ross at Benedum on sale June 29
- Two conductors to join Pittsburgh Symphony
- Jamestown comedy center to entertain, teach