Kenny G Biography

Kenneth Gorelick, 5 June 1956, Seattle, Washington, USA. Gorelick learned saxophone as a child and toured Europe in 1974 with the Franklin High School band. Two years later he played with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra in Seattle before entering the University of Washington to study accounting. Gorelick first recorded with local funk band Cold, Bold And Together and also backed many leading artists on their Seattle shows. After graduation, he joined the Jeff Lorber Fusion, recording with the jazz rock band for Arista Records, the label that in 1981 signed him to a solo contract. Produced by Preston Glass and Narada Michael Walden, Duotones was a major success and it included ‘Songbird’, a US Top 5 hit in 1987. Like much of his other work, it featured a flawless, melodic alto saxophone solo. By now, Kenny G. was in demand to play solos on albums by such singers as Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin. Among the guest artists on Silhouette was Smokey Robinson who sang ‘We’ve Saved The Best For Last’. Like its predecessor, the album sold over three million copies worldwide.

Kenny G.’s extraordinary success continued into the 90s. In 1992, he collaborated with Michael Bolton’s on the US Top 20 hit ‘Missing You Now’, and released the multi-platinum Breathless. He was also acknowledged as fellow musician President Clinton’s favourite saxophonist. Miracles: The Holiday Album rocketed to the top of the US pop charts, re-igniting interest in Breathless which, by the mid-90s had sold over 11 million copies in the USA alone and had remained at the top of the Billboard jazz chart for well over 18 months. It was finally toppled in October 1996 after an incredible run. The rude interloper to this was The Moment, the new album from... Kenny G. He changed tack for the subsequent Classics In The Key Of G, a collection of jazz standards, which still managed to sound like all his other recordings.

In January 2000, Kenny G. enjoyed a US Top 10 single with his version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A badly chosen career move that year was to sample Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ and to solo alongside it. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, not normally known for abusive language and outbursts of anger, was moved to offer his thoughts on the matter via his own website. Part of his tirade included a description of Kenny G.’s ‘lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing’.

The crossover into pop is felt to be too strong by most jazz critics, as the type of music he plays is very structured and contrived. Popular music has at least given rise to the ‘great crossover debate’. Arguments aside, Kenny G. is a phenomenon. He sells albums in rock group proportions and his popularity is consistent.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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