Kenny G Takes An Etiquette Solo

Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM by User 0 Comments
Kenny G Takes An Etiquette Solo


Rico Gagliano: Yes, each week, you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this week is Kenny G. His smooth saxophone sounds have sold over 75 million records. That makes him one of the best-selling musicians of all time, and the biggest-selling instrumental musicians of the modern chart era. He has just released a new album, his fourteenth full-length. Did we count right? Is that right?

Kenny G: I have no idea, actually.

Rico Gagliano: It’s something like fourteen. Over a dozen.

Kenny G: Okay, good. We’ll say fourteen.

Rico Gagliano: Called “Brazilian Nights”, and Kenny, thank you for joining us, sir. Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Kenny, before we get to the new album, in researching your career, we came across this: Your first job, when you were still in high school, was playing for Barry White.

Kenny G: That’s correct. That was my only job.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What is it like, being a teen and working with this king of oversexed, 70s soul music? Or, is the answer in the question?

Kenny G: Is that what he’s known as?

Rico Gagliano: I think so.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Around our office.

Kenny G: Well, I was so young and so green. I was fifteen years younger than anybody else. I didn’t even know what to do with myself. But, I will give you a Barry White story. Years later, years later, I’m at the Soul Train Music Awards. Probably the only white guy within ten miles of the building, and I got an award. I got a Soul Train Music Award, which was obviously very flattering. So, I’m in the bathroom, and there comes Barry White in the restroom, in the men’s room, and he’s at the mirror, washing his hands or something like that, and I’m looking, and I’m going, man… First of all, I didn’t meet him when I was seventeen. I didn’t meet him. No. I was just one of many people. So, he didn’t know anything about me, but I’m thinking, you know, my name’s popular enough, so I’m sure I’m probably on Barry White’s radar at least. So, I walk up to him and I go, “Barry White, if it wasn’t for you, it was my first gig, I was in high school,” and all this stuff. He looks at me and goes, “Hey, that’s great, baby. Hand me a paper towel.” And, that’s it. That was my Barry White experience.

Rico Gagliano: 75 million albums, but that was the highlight of your career right there, right?

Kenny G: That was one of the memorable moments of my career.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s change to this record.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah. First of all, it’s called, as we mentioned, “Brazilian Nights.” We want to believe that it was either recorded or conceived at night, in Brazil.

Kenny G: I’ve been to Brazil a few times, and nothing would please me more than to say yes, but I love bossa nova. I love the rhythm. I loved how the old jazz greats used to do their style of bossa nova, which was cool jazz changes, but still, that sexy rhythm. So, I recorded about five of the original stuff from the 60s, and then I wrote five originals of my own. If you like that vibe, the whole record’s that vibe.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s the thing. We have musicians come through each week, and they often give us dinner party song suggestions, and bossa nova has been coming up again and again recently.

Kenny G: What’s great about bossa nova is that you can listen to it very, very intently, because it’s complicated, with the certain changes and all that, or you can just let it ride and give you a vibe. But, it’s not so sleepy, so it’s not so muzak-ish. I don’t even like the word ‘smooth jazz’, because what it’s turned into is so diluted these days. I can’t even stand to listen to some of that stuff, because it’s just so generic.

Rico Gagliano: What do you think has changed?

Kenny G: Okay, this is going to sound like I’m a big [expletive], but I’m not, actually. Let’s say, there should be 25 artists making that kind of music. There are 200 artists making that music. There are so many, and honestly, they are OK. The music’s OK, and it solves the problem of having some background music to just be OK with.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you think it’s easier to hide in that genre, Kenny?

Kenny G: Absolutely, a lot easier. Way easier. You just put a little groove in the background, play a few notes on the sax, and the tone doesn’t even have to be that good. If I put that on, I won’t really have to listen to it, and it will just sit there and soothe me. So, when I’m talking about bossa nova, it’s not sitting there, generically being okay. It’s got a lot more depth to it.

Rico Gagliano: But, unfortunately, Kenny, it seems like a lot of our listeners are in need of soothing. They’ve sent in etiquette questions for you to answer. Are you ready for these?

Kenny G: I’m the expert, man. I’m the expert on that stuff. I know everything about everything.


Read the whole article at The Dinner Party

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