Scaling Perfection : On the Music of Kenny G
by Guest Author Kelly Todd
Today’s posts seem to be clogging the League with political dissertations and proclamations of one sort or another. Is democracy good? Is the separation of powers evil? Are man’s rights naturally descended from the Divine, or granted by the mercy of the State?
Blah, blah, blah.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for chewing the fat over political philosophy. Mind you, that time and place was back in your sophomore dorm room after sharing a bowl – but hey! Live and let live, right? But there’s more to life than systems of government, the nature of man and arcane political texts – much more.
There is the the earthy smell of fresh rain in a virgin forest. There is the soft bite that hits the back of your throat after your first sip of 80 year-old scotch. There is the sugary kiss of Spring’s first strawberry. There is the racing of blood that flushes your cheeks as you fall into a young lover’s embrace. More importantly, there are the sounds – the sublime, aural reasons for living – that can deliver all of these sensations in five-minute increments, like symphonies of the human spirit itself.
I speak, of course, of the magical works of jazz’s greatest master – Kenny G.
Kenneth Bruce Gorelick’s contribution to music is as astounding as it is prolific. His ability to play constant, unending scales – “noodling,” as his fans call his style – is indeed impressive. (Kenny has mastered a breathing technique called circular breathing, initially developed by players of the didgeridoo, which allows him to noodle for surprisingly long stretches!) He has recorded no less than 14 studio albums; the songs on these albums are also used on his additional 10 different greatest hits albums. Add to these three additional live albums of his greatest hits and six different Holiday albums and it’s clear just how prolific an artist Kenny is.
His albums sell considerably better than other jazz artists; in fact, no jazz performer has sold more. Randians and other free market worshipers that frequent the League will immediately recognize this as proof that he is a far superior jazz musician than other so-called-artists such as Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Duke Ellington or Wynton Marsalis.
As you can imagine, with such an enormous body of work, the variance in styles from piece to piece is sweeping; sometimes it is hard to believe that the many different bits of Kenny’s oeuvre come from the same man. For example, fans of his will recognize the quick tempo swing that cuts through his biggest hit, Songbird:
Compare that to the more contemplative, Stravinsky-esque Sentimental – with it’s haunting off-beat counter melodies – and it’s hard to believe you’re hearing the same artist:
Or, for a more silly, devil-may-care Gershwin playfulness, try sampling a bit of Breathless:
Finally, just because Kenny is a “commercial artist” doesn’t mean that the “artist” follows the “commercial!” For those that like their music brooding with deep and passionate political statements, the song Always shows Kenny in all his hard core fury, bringing a rough edge that one might associate more with heavy metal than smooth jazz:
In Obama’s America, we are surrounded by a dying culture that seems to endlessly crank out crass, cookie-cutter, passionless, commercial dreck and declare it Music. It’s enough to drive a man to despair. Or at least it would be, if we didn’t have Kenny G dishing up the soundtrack to our lives, our loves and our dreams.
Truly, he is the Michael Bolton of American Jazz.