But a new documentary by Penny Lane may make some critics of Kenny G reconsider.
This documentary also raises bigger issues beyond music. It explores racial prejudice and art and business controversy, and provides some lessons on what someone needs to succeed in any field.
The result is that no matter what he chooses to do, Kenny G may be successful. He is a relentless struggler-practicing saxophone for at least three hours a day-with a compulsive need to do better in everything, even if it’s just baking an apple pie in his gorgeous kitchen.
Many critics belittle his music
However, Kenny G’s dedication to his craft may not impress his critics.
Some of the most interesting scenes in the documentary appear when jazz critics are asked to rate Kenny G’s music. Many people twist their bodies like toddlers at the dentist, and when Kenny G standards (such as “Songbird”) are played in the background, their faces are full of uncomfortable expressions.
“I’m sure I heard a lot of Kenny G’s music while I was waiting,” Ratcliffe said, referring to the pipe music he heard when he was in a store or visiting a bank.
However, another critic cited the popularity of Kenny G—he has sold at least 75 million records—as a form of defense.
However, the center of this documentary is Kenny G himself. His shrewd bias towards critics made the film develop in unexpected directions.
Kenny G avoids labeling his music. Is it jazz or pop? You tell me, he said. He also refuted the idea that he deliberately set out to create jazz Muzak that would appeal to the public.
“These are songs from my heart,” he said. “That’s how I heard it. They [critics] I think I just decided to play these songs because I know they will sell well. If only I were so smart. “
Nevertheless, he created an iconic voice
But this movie clearly shows that because it traces his rise in the music industry, Kenny G is much smarter than people realize.
Kenny G’s high school music teacher recalled that he was a shy kid with no girlfriend, “super, super smart”.
The teacher told an interesting story about Kenny G who stole the show with a long note in his first live performance-an iconic stage action that any of his fans can recognize today.
Some of the best scenes show Kenny G’s arrogance. He is also an excellent golfer, pilot and successful investor.
“It was so difficult, I played very well,” he said with a contented smile after an impressive practice with his soprano saxophone.
This movie also explains well why some jazz critics despise him. Many people say that his music is not jazz.
They say that jazz is about improvisation and intense interaction between musicians testing the boundaries of music. These qualities do not describe Kenny G’s music.
But even some of his critics admit that Kenny G has created a new type of instrumental music that is very popular, such as “Songbird” and “Silhouette”. It is indisputable that he has a unique voice and has sold millions of records.
How many musicians can say that?
“I don’t think many people would say that they created a new voice, but I did it,” he said.
Some people think this sound is “easy to hear”, but Kenny G seems to be at a loss for this label.
“When you hear words like’easy listening,’ it almost sounds terrible,” he said. “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with anything that is easy to hear.”
His music sparked a debate about what is true jazz
Jazz purists criticize Kenny G because they believe that his music does not reflect any particular jazz style or innovation. They also complained that he made millions of dollars from his music, while many skilled jazz musicians worked hard in relative obscurity.
As the movie shows, the debate about what is real jazz is as old as jazz itself.
In addition, jazz and all music have another purpose.
Music provides people with an escape, a way to feel good. Some of the most touching passages in the documentary show the broad appeal of Kenny G. His fans come from all races, age groups and nationalities (he is huge in China). This movie depicts them all nodding happily to his music with the same contented expressions.
Kenny G’s music may not fit the classic definition of jazz. It may put some listeners to sleep.
But perhaps we should not underestimate a musician, who can wash away the dust of daily life for many listeners who are exhausted by living in an increasingly divided world.
If you follow this standard, Kenny G may be a master.