As I mentioned below, on Friday I reviewed a Kenny G concert at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. If you missed it, read the review here.
Believe it or not, I actually pitched this assignment to the Star-Ledger, because after years of uncritically accepting the rampant smooth jazz bashing of my peers in the jazz community, I thought I should at least take a listen for myself and see if the unrestrained anger directed at this man is justified.
My brief impression of the show was that Kenny G is a shameless but devastatingly effective self-promoter, a decent technician on his instrument, harmonically and melodically limited to pre-bebop diatonicism and blues riffs, and an amazing onstage communicator.
I had a much longer post written, but the internet just ate it. Instead, here are some links to some previous reactions to Kenny G, ranging from dismissive to derisive to furious:
If you really want to dig deep into this, check out Aaron West’s PhD dissertation on smooth jazz. It’s really fascinating, and says a lot of what I wanted to say much better than I can.
Although the three-hour-long concert was too long for my skeptical ears, even I was rarely bored. Jazz musicians would do well to adopt some of Kenny G’s performance savvy and onstage exuberance into their live performances. One of my favorite current musicians, Matt Wilson, is doing this better than anyone, but playing awesome music. (His new Christmas CD puts poor Kenny to shame. Seriously, it’s really good! Buy it!)
I left the theater that evening feeling a bit silly for going along with the Kenny G haters for so long, but not exactly digging his act either. At the end of the day, I’m glad that I checked it out, and am especially curious to know what you all have to say about my reactions. Please chime in below, whether you’re a smooth jazz nut or a longtime G-hater.