The Internet generation will know Kenny G as the cool “Uncle Kenny” on pop star Katy Perry’s music video, Last Friday Night (TGIF), playing a saxophone solo on the roof of a party house (in a cameo alongside other past greats – Debbie Gibson, Corey Feldman and Hanson!). But he needs no introduction for the older generation, who grew up with the sublime sounds of Songbird, Silhouette, Havana and Midnight Motion, to mention just four in a long list of fan favourites.
Born Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, this smooth jazz saxophonist picked up the instrument when he was just 10 and, 46 years later, is still keeping listeners in a mellow mood, whether they’re enjoying his music on air, via digital players or, best of all, live.
Trained under trumpeter Gerald Pfister and also learning by emulating what he heard on the records of his idol, Grover Washington Jr, Kenny G had his first taste of fame while a sideman for Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra at just 17.
That got him on the path of music as a career (he credits getting paid for doing what he loves as key!), joining punk band Cold, Bold & Together and later The Jeff Lorber Fusion before getting signed to Arista Records in 1982.
From that moment on, there was no stopping the boy from Seattle as he released solo albums – the second already going platinum – and collaborated with many big names in the music industry, including Toni Braxton (How Could An Angel Break My Heart), Frank Sinatra (All the Way – One for My Baby [And One More for the Road]), Whitney Houston (Waiting For You, from the movie The Bodyguard) and Peabo Bryson (By the Time This Night is Over).
Known as the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era, with global sales in the tens of million, and for holding the Guinness World Record for longest note held on a saxophone (45 minutes and 47 seconds!), Kenny G’s music is so ubiquitous that you may not even realise you’re listening to his work. You can ask commuters in China, for one thing, about the music played on its public transport systems (Kenny G recorded Chinese songs Jasmine Flower and The Moon Represents My Heart), while bar patrons will more commonly recognise Going Home that often plays at closing time.
And of course, now that Titanic is out in 3D, it would be remiss not to mention his Love Theme from Titanic, which will undoubtedly bring you back to Rose and Jack and the ice-cold waters, again and again.
Having hosted this sax god last May at the KL Convention Centre, Malaysians can’t raise any objection to his return this year, as this will be just another opportunity to witness a mind-blowing and unforgettable performance. Missed out on the show last year? Just don’t this time, or you’ll be looking for a saxophone just to hit yourself over the head with it – guaranteed!