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Hardbopjazz

Kenny G Explains Why He Did a Documentary About How Much People Hate Him

92 posts in this topic

My wife and I watched the doc last night. Many telling nuggets.

I think someone already said he assembles his recorded ‘solos’ (is that even a relevant terms here?) from dozens of takes, and he demonstrated that. Not even takes really, but maybe a handful of takes, and then several dozen overdubs (per song) of just a phrase here, or a couple notes there. Maybe 60-80 or even 100 edits per song, I might imagine. He’s obsessive about making every note sound perfect, so he builds up the tracks that way to ensure perfection (or as close as he can get).

And he writes songs by recording bare solo melodies (demos), and then works with a keyboard player to piece together the chord changes, one by one — the keyboard player playing what I think Kenny literally said was like as many as 3 dozen chords PER change, until his keyboard player stumbles on chord Kenny likes (just what hits his ear right) — and then they move on to the next chord in the sequence.

He supposedly practices 3-5 hours a day (and maybe he does), but he doesn’t know anything at all about chords or how to even begin to write tunes from a harmonic perspective — he’s 100% a melodist.

And it’s not that he just needs the help of an arranger — no, he doesn’t seem to know anything whatsoever about basic intro-level chord theory, and he seemed proud of that too.

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45 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I always took it as "here's what gets my lady/ladies to think I'm sensitive and/or vulnerable and that just makes my life SO much easier CD".

And there's nothing wrong with that, because that's not about music, that's about human relations. Those things only sometimes are the same thing! #godilovemesomevenndiagram

 

I always thought that his fanbase was nearly all female in the first place though I guess there is a subset of Beta Males keeping the CD handy to help them try to get laid. In a decent world those same people would have one of the "Ballads" comps that BN put out years ago ... Dex, Turrentine, someone else?  But that went out of style when Hef started to look ridiculous in his robe.

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51 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

I always thought that his fanbase was nearly all female in the first place though I guess there is a subset of Beta Males keeping the CD handy to help them try to get laid. In a decent world those same people would have one of the "Ballads" comps that BN put out years ago ... Dex, Turrentine, someone else?  But that went out of style when Hef started to look ridiculous in his robe.

Maybe "beta males" would make sense in a place like this country where identities are forged around consumption preferences and peer pressure, but he's got a worldwide audience. I doubt that rather substantial market is pushed by females only, and the US concept of beta males wouldn't really apply in Asia or other parts of this hemisphere (the Slate article makes note of his popularity in JA, hardly a hot spot of betas). 

1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

My wife and I watched the doc last night. Many telling nuggets.

I think someone already said he assembles his recorded ‘solos’ (is that even a relevant terms here?) from dozens of takes, and he demonstrated that. Not even takes really, but maybe a handful of takes, and then several dozen overdubs (per song) of just a phrase here, or a couple notes there. Maybe 60-80 or even 100 edits per song, I might imagine. He’s obsessive about making every note sound perfect, so he builds up the tracks that way to ensure perfection (or as close as he can get).

And he writes songs by recording bare solo melodies (demos), and then works with a keyboard player to piece together the chord changes, one by one — the keyboard player playing what I think Kenny literally said was like as many as 3 dozen chords PER change, until his keyboard player stumbles on chord Kenny likes (just what hits his ear right) — and then they move on to the next chord in the sequence.

He supposedly practices 3-5 hours a day (and maybe he does), but he doesn’t know anything at all about chords or how to even begin to write tunes from a harmonic perspective — he’s 100% a melodist.

And it’s not that he just needs the help of an arranger — no, he doesn’t seem to know anything whatsoever about basic intro-level chord theory, and he seemed proud of that too.

That's really interesting. I hope he pays that keyboard player a lot of money. That sounds kind of painstaking for what actually gets churned out. 

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7 minutes ago, Dub Modal said:

Maybe "beta males" would make sense in a place like this country where identities are forged around consumption preferences and peer pressure, but he's got a worldwide audience. I doubt that rather substantial market is pushed by females only, and the US concept of beta males wouldn't really apply in Asia or other parts of this hemisphere (the Slate article makes note of his popularity in JA, hardly a hot spot of betas). 

 

I have never heard it asserted that "beta males" aren't a universal phenomenon, even in countries where "machismo" is a major trait. Maybe I shouldn't have used 'beta' and just said 'wimpy males'.

I'll continue to assert his market is predominantly or overwhelmingly females who like, in one order or another, his delightful hair and his delightful, easy to digest pretty melodies.  

 

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9 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

I have never heard it asserted that "beta males" aren't a universal phenomenon, even in countries where "machismo" is a major trait. Maybe I shouldn't have used 'beta' and just said 'wimpy males'.

I'll continue to assert his market is predominantly or overwhelmingly females who like, in one order or another, his delightful hair and his delightful, easy to digest pretty melodies.  

 

Honestly I've only ever heard one demographic use the term "beta males." That's anecdotal of course, but he's sold 75 millions records worldwide. I'm sure there's a fair share of women and wimps buying these units but I have a hard time believing they're pushing that market. But hey, maybe they are. I've never been to one of his concerts but it could be like the opera crowd that was depicted in Seinfeld. 

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1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

My wife and I watched the doc last night. Many telling nuggets.

I think someone already said he assembles his recorded ‘solos’ (is that even a relevant terms here?) from dozens of takes, and he demonstrated that. Not even takes really, but maybe a handful of takes, and then several dozen overdubs (per song) of just a phrase here, or a couple notes there. Maybe 60-80 or even 100 edits per song, I might imagine. He’s obsessive about making every note sound perfect, so he builds up the tracks that way to ensure perfection (or as close as he can get).

And he writes songs by recording bare solo melodies (demos), and then works with a keyboard player to piece together the chord changes, one by one — the keyboard player playing what I think Kenny literally said was like as many as 3 dozen chords PER change, until his keyboard player stumbles on chord Kenny likes (just what hits his ear right) — and then they move on to the next chord in the sequence.

He supposedly practices 3-5 hours a day (and maybe he does), but he doesn’t know anything at all about chords or how to even begin to write tunes from a harmonic perspective — he’s 100% a melodist.

And it’s not that he just needs the help of an arranger — no, he doesn’t seem to know anything whatsoever about basic intro-level chord theory, and he seemed proud of that too.

This is how pop records have been made since they began making pop records that way, which is at least as long as I've been alive. So I take no outrage in any of this.

As far as the word "jazz" goes...the music itself has done at least as much harm by what it does to itself as has Kenny g,

I do wonder, though, what happened to the Kenny Gorelick that played decently enough on the Jeff Lorber records? That guy wasn't no amazing talent or anything, but...

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Kenny and crowd

kenny-G-coming-down-the-aisle-705x529.jp

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There is an Asian country that plays a Kenny G song when it’s time to go home. I don’t know the song but I think stores and malls play it to signal time to leave. 

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1 minute ago, jcam_44 said:

There is an Asian country that plays a Kenny G song when it’s time to go home. I don’t know the song but I think stores and malls play it to signal time to leave. 

During my years at the university I often stayed late in the library, as did hundreds of others. When it closed at 9 pm, they always put on what was supposed to be very intrusive music at maximum volume all over the library - more than once screaming free jazz saxophone playing. 

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12 minutes ago, jcam_44 said:

There is an Asian country that plays a Kenny G song when it’s time to go home. I don’t know the song but I think stores and malls play it to signal time to leave. 

Per the Slate article linked upthread it's China

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John Oliver closing bit. 5 minutes total, starting w China creating islands in the sea (skip ahead 90 seconds if you like). Kenny appears to have a sense of humor in that he stifles a few laughs while playing (...not quite to the level of Michael Jordan on SNL but...). 

John Oliver China and Kenny G - YouTube

 

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If his playing was actually melodic, I'd have no problem with it.  But to my ears it's not.  Melodies are based on making definite choices re what notes to play - noodling aimlessly is the opposite of melodic.  IMHO, YMMV, but it strikes me as irredeemably dishonest music and he strikes me as not a 'nice guy' at all.  Not everything soft and quiet is melodic or nice, some of it is manipulative BS.

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7 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

Likewise Sanborn

 

Whoa, hold on a sec - maybe this is what you're getting at, but Sanborn and Kenny G should not be mentioned in the same breath. Each is an ethos, but whereas Sanborn is a reduction (or maybe simplification) of principles with some very legitimate provenance, Kenny G is almost sui generis with regard to the methodology and consistency of his blandness.

That Kenny G lacks artistic validity says more about the frameworks with which we are geared to curate genre than it does Kenny G himself. Of course Kenny G sucks. He sucks in the same way that a Huffy Green Machine is not a suitable substitute for a high end Ducati. IMO the "real problem" is that [the universal we] tend to conflate visual markers with cultural identities. Kenny G, John Coltrane, and Braxton all play soprano, so of course they play the same kind of music. 

Keep in mind that I'm not arguing that Kenny G's music has any sort of inherent value - more that the controversy over his popularity overlays a more interesting discussion about how expressive art suffers in the face of commodification. 

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I heard that name quite often but never heard music from him, maybe what people told me was enough for me. There was another saxophone player who I think stated that he plays 98% funk and 2% jazz....

Well that´s okay for me, I wouldn not hate a guy who plays music for people who like it. 
Like David Sandborn I think. I never heard him and don´t have records of him. Same with Grover Washington, once someone gave me an album of him, it sounds nice, but I spin it one time, two times and that was it. 

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6 hours ago, Ken Dryden said:

Margarine sax…. 

Excellent. I'll pass, thanks.

6 hours ago, ep1str0phy said:

Whoa, hold on a sec - maybe this is what you're getting at, but Sanborn and Kenny G should not be mentioned in the same breath. Each is an ethos, but whereas Sanborn is a reduction (or maybe simplification) of principles with some very legitimate provenance, Kenny G is almost sui generis with regard to the methodology and consistency of his blandness.

That Kenny G lacks artistic validity says more about the frameworks with which we are geared to curate genre than it does Kenny G himself. Of course Kenny G sucks. He sucks in the same way that a Huffy Green Machine is not a suitable substitute for a high end Ducati. IMO the "real problem" is that [the universal we] tend to conflate visual markers with cultural identities. Kenny G, John Coltrane, and Braxton all play soprano, so of course they play the same kind of music. 

Keep in mind that I'm not arguing that Kenny G's music has any sort of inherent value - more that the controversy over his popularity overlays a more interesting discussion about how expressive art suffers in the face of commodification. 

Yeah. I didn't mean anything other than to agree with the point above (regarding GW Jr) that the smooth jazz genre / radio format / marketing concept has quality, even if it isn't emanating from Monsieur Gorlitz. Sanborn and Washington are great players whose records I happily own and put on all the time. What's good about a record like Winelight is that it's a great jazz record that you could put on in a room of 90s R&B fans and get a great reaction, which you can't necessarily with Billy Harper.

That said, I do think that Mr G's music is okay. Not good, and I don't like it, but a reasonable part of the pop (not even instrumental pop, plenty of his tunes have lyrics, because they are pop songs) ecosystem as it existed a few years ago. I never understood the hate, but maybe that is because I came of age after his "peak" and in Britain, so I missed whatever US marketing campaign made his name, established him as a 'jazz' section artist rather than an R&B artist, whilst irking everyone so much.

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Doesn’t Kenny have more in common with Yanni and Zamfir, and perhaps even Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre — than jazz?

Semi-serious question.  Kenny’s really more “New Age” than smooth jazz, imho.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Doesn’t Kenny have more in common with Yanni and Zamfir, and perhaps even Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre — than jazz?

Semi-serious question.  Kenny’s really more “New Age” than smooth jazz, imho.

He's definitely marketed as smooth jazz though, isn't he? To my ear his "classic era" (hoho) music is just early 80s R&B, closer to that other marketing category 'Quiet Storm' than anything else. New age is as good a description as any for the more recent stuff. 

Substance, marketing and critical classification don't always match up, I guess. What's jazz, what's blues and what's R&B? Same conundrum that applies to Basie etc applies to Mr G.

On 07/12/2021 at 7:40 PM, Daniel A said:

Kenny and crowd

kenny-G-coming-down-the-aisle-705x529.jp

Someone made a similar point about a year ago in a thread about visiting a jazz club and being surprised to see Kenny G's face up there in the pantheon of greats. There was a follow up point about Najee. I've tried to locate the thread but can't find it.

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Nsjee can play.

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3 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Doesn’t Kenny have more in common with Yanni and Zamfir, and perhaps even Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre — than jazz?

Semi-serious question.  Kenny’s really more “New Age” than smooth jazz, imho.

 

1 hour ago, Rabshakeh said:

He's definitely marketed as smooth jazz though, isn't he? To my ear his "classic era" (hoho) music is just early 80s R&B, closer to that other marketing category 'Quiet Storm' than anything else. New age is as good a description as any for the more recent stuff. 

I tend to agree with @Rooster_Ties on this one, but I haven't listened to any older Kenny G in a while. He may be marketed as smooth jazz but, at least from his more recent output, that music doesn't have much in common with SJ in the last 10 years or so. He definitely reminds me more of Yanni at the moment. 

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While not standing judgement over Kenny G and appreciating that he may be very good at what he does, I can just say that I plain and simply hate his music.  It aggravates the hell out of me.   I can't stand it when I hear at malls or the dentist.   If it is on in the mall or supermarket, I will tell my wife that we need to get out here now.  If it is on at the dentist, I request that they take it off.  The first time someone played for me Kenny G, I didn't even know who he was but immediately wanted to vomit.  

On the other hand, I can really enjoy Dave Sanborn in the right context and I love Grover Washington Jr. even if he did make a lot of records that don't interest me at all.  In fact, Grover Washington Jr. is still really loved abroad, particularly in Africa, including among highly accomplished and serious musicians who weren't even born back in the day.   That is saying something. 

 

Edited by John L

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Kenny G stole the blessing and then extincted it. I'm not sure how conscious of this he really was, but I don't know that he cared/cares. He's struck me as the kind of guy who just does what he does because he's just that kind of guy.

But lookie here, two words - George Howard. If you ever listen to Kenny G once, you have a cosmic obligation to listen to George Howard twice.

 

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