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Kenny G has long been the musician many jazz listeners love to hate. A phenomenally successful instrumentalist whose recordings make the pop charts, Kenny G's sound has been a staple on adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio stations since the mid-'80s, making him a household name. Kenny G is a fine player with an attractive sound (influenced a bit by Grover Washington, Jr.) who often caresses melodies, putting a lot of emotion into his solos. Because he does not improvise much (sticking mostly to predictable melody statements), his music largely falls outside of jazz. However, because he is listed at the top of "contemporary jazz" charts and is identified with jazz in the minds of the mass public, he is classified as jazz.
Kenny Gorelick started playing professionally with Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1976. He recorded with Cold, Bold & Together (a Seattle-based funk group) and freelanced locally. After graduating from the University of Washington, Kenny G worked with Jeff Lorber Fusion, making two albums with the group. Soon he was signed to Arista, recording his debut as a leader in 1982. His fourth album, Duotones (which included the very popular "Songbird"), made him into a star. Soon he was in demand for guest appearances on recordings of such famous singers as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Natalie Cole. Kenny G's own records have sold remarkably well, particularly Breathless, which has easily topped eight million copies in the U.S.; his total album sales top 30 million copies. The holiday album Miracles, released in 1994, and 1996's Moment continued the momentum of his massive commercial success. He also recorded his own version of the Celine Dion/Titanic smash "My Heart Will Go On" in 1998, but the following year he released Classics in the Key of G, a collection of jazz standards like "'Round Midnight" and "Body and Soul," possibly to reclaim some jazz credibility.
Faith: A Holiday Album was released that same year, followed by a limited-edition re-release of the 1997 Greatest Hits disc. In 2002 Kenny G dipped into tropical territory with Paradise, which featured guest appearances by Brian McKnight and Chanté Moore. This was followed by a music video collection, another holiday album, entitled Wishes, and, in 2003, a second greatest-hits collection, Ultimate Kenny G. Perhaps in a bid to shake up his discography a bit, in 2004 Kenny G released At Last...The Duets Album, which featured "duets" with LeAnn Rimes and Chaka Khan. Two years later, smooth jazz's king of the soprano sax returned to a purely instrumental approach on the brassy, big-band-inspired albums Holiday Collection and I'm in the Mood for Love; 2006 was also the year the artist was dubbed the best golfer in music by Golf Digest, beating out Vince Gill for the number one spot. In 2008, Kenny G released the Latin-inspired Rhythm and Romance. The sax player next drifted toward R&B for 2010's Heart and Soul, which featured guest vocals from Robin Thicke and Babyface.
Kenneth Bruce Gorelick (born June 5, 1956), better known by his stage name Kenny G, is an American adult contemporary and smooth jazz saxophonist. His fourth album, Duotones, brought him breakthrough success in 1986. Kenny G is the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era and one of the best-selling artists of all time, with global sales totaling more than 75 million records."Kenny G Is Still the Smooth Jazz King". Barnes & Noble.com. October 2002. Retrieved April 7, 2007. Hwang, Kellie (July 2, 2013). "7/5: Kenny G performing at Wild Horse Pass Casino". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
Kenny G was born in Seattle, Washington, to Jewish parents (his mother was originally from Saskatchewan, Canada) and grew up in the city's Seward Park neighborhood, which is a center of the city's Jewish community. He came into contact with a saxophone when he heard someone performing with one on The Ed Sullivan Show. He started playing the saxophone in 1966 when he was 10 years old. He learned how to play under the direction of local trumpeter Gerald Pfister and by practicing along with records (mostly of Grover Washington, Jr.), trying to emulate the sounds that he was hearing. His first saxophone was a Buffet Crampon alto.
Kenny G attended Whitworth Elementary School, Sharples Junior High School, Franklin High School, and the University of Washington, all in his home town of Seattle. When he entered high school, he failed on his first try to get into the jazz band, but tried again the following year and earned first chair. His Franklin High School classmate Robert Damper (piano, keyboards) plays in his band. In addition to his studies while in high school, he took private lessons on the saxophone and clarinet from Johnny Jessen, once a week for a year.
He was also on his high school golf team. He had loved the sport ever since his older brother, Brian Gorelick, introduced it to him when he was ten years old, which is the same age he was when he started playing the saxophone.Cite error: The named reference b.26n was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Kenny G (June 19, 2009). "Some more Q & A". Kenny G Rhythm and Romance. Retrieved April 1, 2010. Diaz, Jaime (December 2006). "After selling millions of records, Grammy winner Kenny G wants to conquer golf". Golf Digest. Retrieved April 7, 2007. Kroichick, Ron (February 7, 2007). "Kenny G can swing with the best of them". Scripps News (ScrippsNews.com). Retrieved April 7, 2007. "Robert Damper". Retrieved October 24, 2014. "Gene Stout. Seattle-bred sax star Kenny G wows crowd in Jazz Alley debut". The Seattle Times. April 27, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014. Wissmuller, Christian (2006). "I'm just doing my own thing, too". Jazzed (December/January). Retrieved April 1, 2010.
Kenny G's career started with a job as a sideman for Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973 while 17 and still in high school. He continued to play professionally while studying for a major in accounting at the University of Washington in Seattle and graduated magna cum laude. He played with the funk band Cold, Bold and Together before becoming a credited member of The Jeff Lorber Fusion. He began his solo career after his period with Lorber.
Kenny G signed with Arista Records as a solo artist in 1982, after label president Clive Davis heard his rendition of ABBA's "Dancing Queen". He has released many solo albums and collaborated with various artists including Andrea Bocelli, Whitney Houston, Peabo Bryson, Aaron Neville, Toni Braxton, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Natalie Cole, Steve Miller, Weezer, Dudley Moore, Lee Ritenour, The Rippingtons, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Bebel Gilberto, George Benson, Chante Moore and Aretha Franklin. Influenced by the likes of saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., his own albums are usually classified as smooth jazz.
He received success quite early on, with both G Force and Gravity, his second and third studio albums respectively, achieving platinum status in the United States. These sales were topped by his fourth studio album, Duotones, which sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. His sixth studio album, Breathless, became the number one best selling instrumental album ever, with over 15 million copies sold, of which 12 million were in the U.S. He broke another record when his first holiday album, Miracles, sold over 13 million copies, making it the most successful Christmas album to date.
In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Using circular breathing, Kenny G held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds at J&R Music World in New York City. That same year, Kenny G's song "Havana", from his album The Moment, was remixed by noted DJs Todd Terry and Tony Moran and released promotionally to dance clubs in the U.S. These mixes went to No.1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart in April 1997.
Kenny G's 1999 single, "What A Wonderful World" was criticized in its overdubbing of Louis Armstrong's classic recording. The primary criticism is that a revered recording by an artist such as Armstrong, known especially for improvisation, should not be altered, especially by a musician whose range and depth of understanding of classic jazz was already in question. Some columnists counter the criticism by suggesting that Kenny G's recording would expose a wider audience to classic jazz, though the overall response to his recording tended to be extremely negative.
In February 2000, Kenny G was invited to the White House and performed for state governors and members of the Clinton Cabinet.
As of 2003, Kenny G was named the 25th-highest selling artist in America by the RIAA, with 48 million albums sold in the USA as of July 31, 2006. In 1994, Kenny G won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Forever in Love.
In October 2009, Kenny G appeared with the band Weezer in an AOL promotion of their album Raditude by soloing during "I'm Your Daddy". Kenny G said he knew nothing of Weezer before the performance. Though some music critics thereby rejoined in the common criticism of his work, the unlikely combination was fairly well received by AOL's magazines Spinner.com and Popeater.com.
In February 2011 Kenny G and his music were featured in a Super Bowl XLV ad for Audi called "Release the Hounds." Kenny G later starred in a short film detailing his time as Head of Riot Suppression for the Luxury Prison.
Recently, he made an appearance in the music video for pop star Katy Perry's single "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" as Uncle Kenny. On the October 8, 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live, Kenny appeared with his soprano sax alongside alternative rock band Foster the People as they performed their song "Houdini."
Kenny G is also a radio personality and can be heard every morning alongside Sandy Kovach on WLOQ in Orlando, Florida.
On October 28, 2014, Kenny's 14th studio album release "Brazilian Nights" was announced. According to Kenny, "Brazilian Nights" was inspired by listening to bossa nova recordings by Cannonball Adderley, Paul Desmond and Stan Getz. The new album is due in stores January 27, 2015.Glenn, Alan (1995). "Kenny G". Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, Inc. Retrieved April 1, 2010. Yanow, Scott. "Kenny G Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 7, 2007. Zimmerman, Kevin (September 30, 2002). "Kenny G Has Time on his Side". BMI.com. Retrieved April 7, 2007. Sandow, Greg (2007). "Kenny G". Microsoft Encarta. Microsoft Corporation. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2007. "The Moment – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved May 7, 2007. "Everlasting – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved May 7, 2007. "Living in the 20th Century – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved May 7, 2007. Cite error: The named reference Wissmuller2006 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Kenny G. Blows". Yahoo!. December 2, 1997. Retrieved January 8, 2012. "Dance/Club Play Songs – Week of April 26, 1997". Billboard. Retrieved April 9, 2010. Ben Ratliff MUSIC; Jazz Can Take Itself Too Seriously The New York Times, July 16, 2000 Mark Sabbatini Kenny G: At Last...The Duets Album All About Jazz, December 30, 2004 George Varga Kenny G: Changes His Tune JazzTimes May 1999 Mike Joyce Who's overrated? Who's Underrated? JazzTimes, September 1997 Pat Metheny MUSIC; Pat Metheny on Kenny G Jazz Oasis, October 5, 2000 Maldonado, Shirley (August 10, 2000). "Gee whiz, give Kenny a break". Boston Herald. Retrieved April 7, 2010. "Anne Gearan. Clinton hosts governors minus Bush". Associated Press. February 27, 2000. Retrieved October 24, 2014. "Top Artists". RIAA.com. July 31, 2006. Archived from the original on March 4, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2007. Charley Rogulewski Weezer Run With Chamillionaire, Sara Bareilles and ... Kenny G? Spinner.com, October 23, 2009 Tom Breihan Weezer Team Up With Kenny G, Chamillionaire, Sara Bareilles Pitchfork Media, October 23, 2009 Mike Burr Weezer Breaks Out Rolodex, Brings Kenny G., Chamillionaire, and Sara Bareilles To AOL Session Prefix Magazine , October 23, 2009 Kenny G Steps Back Into the Spotlight popeater.com, October 26, 2009 Audi Big Game Commercial 2011 – Release the Hounds on YouTube, February 2, 2011 Audi Big Game 2011 Teaser – Kenny G Riot Suppressor (Part 2) on YouTube, February 1, 2011 "Kenny G & Sandy Kovach – Orlando's Smooth Jazz". 1025wloq.com. August 18, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2012. Jazz Times | Detail. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
Popularity in Hong Kong and China
Kenny G has recorded some Chinese songs, such as "Jasmine Flower" (茉莉花) or "The Moon Represents My Heart" (月亮代表我的心). His music is noticeably popular in China.
Since 1989, Kenny G's recording "Going Home" from the Kenny G Live album has become an unconventional mega-hit throughout China: It has become the unofficial national closing song for businesses such as food courts, outdoor markets, health clubs, shopping malls and train stations throughout the country. Many businesses begin piping the music over their loudspeakers shortly before closing at night. Television stations also play the song before ending their evening broadcasts at night. Many Chinese, when asked, say they associate the song with the need to finish their activity or business and go home (although they may not even know the name of the song or its artist).
Kenny G became embroiled in controversy when he posted Twitter images of his visit to the site of the 2014 Hong Kong protests, which the PRC government has declared illegal, saying "I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation". The feed provoked an immediate angry reaction from the Chinese foreign ministry. The artist issued a panicked clarification: "I don't really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong ... I only wanted to share my wish for peace for Hong Kong and for all of China as I feel close to and care about China very much."Kory Grow (May 12, 2014). "China Embraces Kenny G's 'Going Home' as Its Anthem to Go Home". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 24, 2014. Levin, Dan (May 11, 2014). "China Says Goodbye in the Key of G: Kenny G". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2014. Jonathan Kaiman. "China furious after Kenny G appears to back Hong Kong protesters". The Guardian. Retrieved October 24, 2014. "Kenny G angers China with 'Occupy' Hong Kong visit – CNN". CNN. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. "Tweets in Hong Kong Put Kenny G in Jam With Communist Party". NPR. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2014. Levin, Dan (OCT. 22, 2014). "Beijing Unsoothed by a Kenny G Visit". The New York Times
Kenny G plays the Selmer Mark VI Soprano, Alto and Tenor Saxophones. He has created his own line of saxophones called "Kenny G Saxophones"."Kenny G Saxophones". Retrieved September 8, 2012.
Kenny G married Lyndie Benson in 1992, and the couple had two sons. In January 2012, Benson-Gorelick filed for legal separation. Kenny G filed for divorce in August 2012.
Kenny G lives in Malibu, California. He is an avid golfer and has a handicap of +0.6. He has participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament seven times as of 2007 and teamed with Phil Mickelson to share the AT&T pro-am title in 2001 with the team of Tiger Woods and Jerry Chang. In the Golf Digest rankings of Top 100 in Music, according to golf handicap indexes of major musicians, he was first in 2006 and second in 2008. He is a member at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California.
Kenny G is an aircraft pilot and has a De Havilland Beaver seaplane that he flies regularly. He was also an early investor in the Starbucks coffee house chain.Everett, Christina (January 20, 2011). "Kenny G's wife files for legal separation". Daily News (New York). Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2011. Fleeman, Mike (August 13, 2012). "Kenny G Files for Divorce After 20 Years of Marriage". People. Retrieved August 14, 2012. "Girl hurt by item cast from Kenny G's home". Los Angeles Times. June 30, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2011. Cite error: The named reference Diaz2006 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference scripps was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Furlong, Lisa; Craig Bestrom (November 2008). "The Top 100 in Music". Golf Digest. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved April 3, 2010. Strauss, Neil (October 31, 2006). "... And Two if by Seaplane". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2010. Harding, Cortney (January 25, 2008). "Q&A: Kenny G explores Latin "Rhythm"". Reuters. Retrieved April 3, 2010.