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Friday, January 21, 2022

Review “Listening to Kenny G”: a good saxophone?

Despite being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling jazz performer, saxophonist Kenneth Gorelik, known by his stage name Kenny G, may be better known as a punchline than as a musician. “I got it,” he tells documentary filmmaker Penny Lane in Lane’s new film Listening to Kenny J.

The film’s inspiring question: Why does a musician who has so much pleasure to so many listeners evoke an almost incoherently angry attitude towards so many others? Some respondents, including Kenny J. himself, imply that the judgments against his work are de facto judgments of the people who love it. This is a misleading conclusion that the film could have revealed better.

But Hearing is very good at doing other things. As the history of the music industry, the rise of Kenny G, engineered by tycoon Clive Davis but at times antagonistic to the artist himself, is mesmerizing. Analyzing the connection between what makes Kenny G a star and what annoys him is accurate, especially in his relationship to jazz. Famous artists of the genre such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk were more than just inspiring players; they were orchestral leaders whose musical concepts emphasized instrumental interaction. With Kenny G his saxophone v thing.

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The saxophone song “Going Home” is supernaturally popular in China, where it was adopted as a hymn before closing. In the documentary, critic Ben Ratliff points out this and wonders if Kenny G.’s music is a “weapon of consent.” The film also provides a hilarious account of composer-guitarist Pat Metheny’s angry accusations of “musical necrophilia” after Kenny G’s virtual duo with Louis Armstrong.

The saxophonist, who often exhibits the mixture of self-gratification and protection that is inherent in artists who have received equal fame and ridicule, remains unshakable. His next album, he announces, will feature another virtual duo, this time with the apparently divisive Jazz giant Stan Getz.

Listening to Kenny G.
Not rated. The duration of the performance is 1 hour 37 minutes. Take a look at HBO Max.

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