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Is Kenny G even jazz?

Matched Gripper

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I think of it as awesome torture music, myself. I really wanted to do a full record of Kenny G tunes played with a kazoo, but that means that I would have to make my ears bleed with that music. But is his music genre jazz or something else?

Please discuss...
“Smooth jazz!” It’s Musak in a jazz mask. Kinda like what passes for country music these days. [Runs for cover]
 

Sequimite

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Back when I was an ignorant rock'n teen I heard Thelonious Monk and was enraptured. I heard Kenny G and thought, "background music", bland, inoffensive, pleasant; I hated it. So it wasn't jazz arrogance in my case.

I regularly listen to Celtic Traditional music, which some may find as bland as the G man but for me it pulses with energy, it has an edge, two things that I don't get from Kenny G.
 

ChicagoDave

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spotify top kenny g.jpg
 

dcrigger

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I don't see why these labels and categorizations matter so much to so many... as though what we call the music influences the music at all... it doesn't. The music is the music.

This is why I believe that listening to lots and lots of music of all kinds is so important. Because it gives us the overall "lay of the land". Which means when we hear something like Kenny G - we're then able to pretty easily see where it generally falls on the map.

For me, Kenny G falls in that borderland between jazz and pop music - that historically is pretty well populated... some where near the town of "Soul Jazz", not far from the land of pop instrumentals. Past residents of this region have included Ramsey Lewis, Brooker T and the MG's, Grover Washington, Bob James (actually the bulk of the CTI catalog), Henry Mancini, Hugh Masekela, Cozy Cole....

Was Kenny G one of this regions most musically significant citizens?

I don't think so - but all in all, he's not that different.

Do I like his music? Personally, not really. But I like to think I can hear it for what it is - hear how it relates to the "somewhere between pop and jazz instrumental artists of the past" - which means that I think I'm able to hear the "good" and "bad" of it. And from there, recognize why I'm not a fan.

The all too common, knee jerk "It just sucks" evaluation always leaves me wondering if the commenter is just demonstrably expressing their dislike or if they haven't done enough listening to put the music in context.

For me, answering the question, "Is it jazz?" requires a definition that is so broad as to be meaningless.

my 2 cents
 

charlesm

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I would have this very discussion 33 years ago with friends sitting around in hs jazz ensemble.

33 years ago...exact same discussion.

At that time, of course, we all took delight in decimating Kenny G and his glossy, schmaltzy smooth jazz.

Over the course of the ensuing years, however, in becoming a more mature listener and person (hopefully), I discovered some things.

Namely: I still really dislike cookie-cutter, soul-less "smooth jazz"...Kenny's relevant music included.

However, the guy, as in most people's stories, had a past. And it turns out that he's actually an extremely accomplished saxophone player. Check out his work with Jeff Lorber's group in the early '80s, before all his saccharine solo work. There's some serious playing on that stuff.

Sure, Kenny G hit on a certain formula after that, and he rode it to superstardom and wealth, albeit at the cost of integrity in the eyes of many.

As a musician who always strives to improve somehow, I do think it's a shame that a person's perception and advancement on an instrument can become overshadowed by watered-down or "pop" material. It's not unlike the perception of George Benson by some or those who think BB King is defined by "The Thrill Is Gone".
 

Lamontsdad

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I would have this very discussion 33 years ago with friends sitting around in hs jazz ensemble.

33 years ago...exact same discussion.

At that time, of course, we all took delight in decimating Kenny G and his glossy, schmaltzy smooth jazz.

Over the course of the ensuing years, however, in becoming a more mature listener and person (hopefully), I discovered some things.

Namely: I still really dislike cookie-cutter, soul-less "smooth jazz"...Kenny's relevant music included.

However, the guy, as in most people's stories, had a past. And it turns out that he's actually an extremely accomplished saxophone player. Check out his work with Jeff Lorber's group in the early '80s, before all his saccharine solo work. There's some serious playing on that stuff.

Sure, Kenny G hit on a certain formula after that, and he rode it to superstardom and wealth, albeit at the cost of integrity in the eyes of many.

As a musician who always strives to improve somehow, I do think it's a shame that a person's perception and advancement on an instrument can become overshadowed by watered-down or "pop" material. It's not unlike the perception of George Benson by some or those who think BB King is defined by "The Thrill Is Gone".
I have always said, even about the most horrendous pop tarts, that the people at the top of the charts had to have chops, or the record companies would not waste their time polishing them up. I can respect that Kenny G is a good player; even a great player. Sometimes, they can break away from what made their bread and butter; many times they won't out of respect for the fans that put them where they are.

I will always remember that he is doing what many of us dream of doing: being gainfully employed doing something he truly loves- music.
 

KCJazz

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I have always said, even about the most horrendous pop tarts, that the people at the top of the charts had to have chops, or the record companies would not waste their time polishing them up. I can respect that Kenny G is a good player; even a great player. Sometimes, they can break away from what made their bread and butter; many times they won't out of respect for the fans that put them where they are.

I will always remember that he is doing what many of us dream of doing: being gainfully employed doing something he truly loves- music.
I wished that Lou Rawls had stuck with the kind of bluesy jazz he was doing in '66 on "Lou Rawls Live".
 

jptrickster

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Jazz at it’s worst we’ll maybe jazz rock was worse than smooth jazz. He ‘s a very good player with unbelievable tone the chicks dig him he has tons of money I respect what he’s done musically although not my cuppa
 


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