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June 5: Kenny G.

June 4, 2016

e279The much-maligned and fantastically successful “smooth jazz” saxophonist Kenny G (Gorelick) was born in Seattle on this date in 1956. He began his career as a sideman to soul singer Barry White and climbed his way through several collaborations to become one of the best-selling musicians of all time. On his At Last... The Duets album, he played with Barbra Streisand, David Sanborn, Darryl Hall, and Burt Bacharach, among others. As of 2015, he had released eighteen albums, mostly featuring soprano sax. Yet his music is “spectacularly lacking in any of the characteristics that define jazz as a genre,” wrote Peter Watrous in the New York Times in 1993. “His work is improvisationally empty and doesn’t swing, there’s no blues sensibility, and he hasn’t figured out the difference between emotionalism and sentimentality. No wonder people who have spent their whole lives trying to master the art form, to little recognition, get resentful.” Since 1989, Kenny G’s piece, “Going Home,” has been vastly popular throughout China, serving as the unofficial closing song for many businesses, malls, and public spaces throughout the land. To hear the tune, look below.

“Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I think the ordinary guy has just as much right to say ‘This is a good song’ as somebody who is in the music business.” —Kenny G