Kenny G Seeking New Directions in His Life and Music
For soprano-saxophone superstar Kenny G, change is in the air.
He has moved to a house he bought a few months ago in this exclusive Seattle suburb, a finger of land jutting into Lake Washington, and recently bought a small airplane to fly between gigs.
He says he has discovered the joys of mountain hot springs and rarely listens to the music that earned the Arista recording star three Grammy nominations for best pop instrumental performance.
Billboard magazine named him contemporary artist of 1989 and artist of the decade and named his “Silhouette” album of the year for 1989 and “Duotones” jazz album of the decade. He was also voted top instrumentalist in the Rolling Stone magazine readers’ poll.
“I’ve got a few songs, a few ideas, but my next album is going to take me probably a lot longer to make than the other ones,” he said. “My last few albums--I love all the songs and each song has a different message, a different melody--(but) the essence has a lot of similarities and I want to try to see if I can find something that is a step in a different direction.”
“I don’t know. I just want to start playing my saxophone and have a melody come to me,” he said. “To do that, what I’m going to have to do is sit on the dock and just relax, just hang out, play my saxophone and not work too hard.”
“I’m trying to make the right choices, but it’s more important for me to kind of stay out of the way and just let it happen, you know, and not try to control it.”
Kenny Gorelick, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude accounting graduate of the University of Washington, bought his first soprano saxophone 18 years ago, when he was 15, for $300.
His former instructors, Johnnie Jessen, 81, who played in the vaudeville and big-band eras, and University of Washington jazz-band leader Roy Cummings, remember him for a practice-practice-practice work ethic.
The payoff was speed-demon fingering that helped get him his first break, a weekend gig with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra at age 17.
Before long, he was the only white player in the funky soul band Cold, Bold and Together, fondly remembered in Seattle since its brief existence in the mid-1970s.
“Being the only white guy in the band was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life,” he told the Seattle Times last spring. “I not only crossed the color barrier; I found people were as happy to hear my blue-eyed soul as they were to hear the real thing. I got over my stage fright once and for all.”
A couple of years with Jeff Lorber Fusion of Portland, Ore., led to his first solo release, “Kenny G,” a stage name he adopted because it “had a nice ring to it.”
Big money began rolling in with “Songbird,” a hit tune that helped sell more than 3 million copies of “Duotones.” The inspiration for the tune was Lindie Benson, an acting student and his companion since 1985.
One of his performance trademarks is continuous breathing, inhaling through his nose while blowing out through his mouth, to maintain a note for long, soulful moments of suspense. Fans leap to their feet, clapping and cheering, as he slides into a smooth riff and the band picks up the beat.
Playing, Kenny G said, “is a very happy feeling. It’s coming from a divine place where I think all art comes from. Just think about the fact that it’s actually inside of me, going through me and then coming out. It’s just unbelievable, a total euphoric kind of high.”
He says he never listens to his own music after it’s recorded and rarely to any other recorded music. “I really like the silence,” he said. “I like just sitting out there and listening to the waves. I do. I like the silence.”