Friday, September 09, 2005

Kenny G--Jazz, Classical or something else?

Kenny G. He's played with Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Aretha and Grover Washington Jr. He holds the world record for the longest note ever played on a saxaphone...over 45 minutes! But is Kenny G jazz, classical or something else? Why or why not? Make your case.

10 Comments:

Blogger olympiada said...

I would say a something else...because he gets into this 'new age muzak' stuff, but then again I could be ignorant.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

I would say he's all three in some ways, but ultimately he is not jazz. He performs plenty of covers, and he comes from a classical place, but there are some pieces he transcends...there is an emergence there, and in theology a simple flourish or two on the old piece seems to be enough to call the music new and different - even better.

But what's missing from what I was able to find checking through a few of his pieces at the iTunes store (I don't own any Kenny G because he makes me want to hurt small animals) is the convergence piece. He's a solo act. I saw a few "featuring so and so" tracks, but it's about Kenny and his own hot air, not about Kenny within the context of a larger arrangement.

Solo seems like less than either classical or jazz.

I think the convergence aspect of jazz theology is incredibly significant. It keeps us appropriately small as we play alongside others or offer support for their times to shine, and at other times it also lays the ideal beds for us to offer the world our own solo. And within that context, as opposed to a context where a solo act will be tempted to evaluate life within a group based upon how much solo time they may be offered, solo time ceases to be the point.

What seems to emerge from convergence is a passionate jam on the now. Celebration emerges from convergence. The true audience shifts somehow from the people "out there" to other people playing with you - when you're caught up in convergence, you dig what you're playing, and you dig what the others are playing, and maybe you end up playing better because you're less focused on the "show" for the people "out there."

And maybe that joy depressurizes the performance enough that it becomes easier to share the stage with other people - people who may not have the same technical abilities or reputations as performers.

Kenny G will never instigate a hootenanny.

Jesus was all about the hootenanny, it seems to me...in His time, and certainly as the Spirit bops around within the Body today.

Great question Jazztheo.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Leslee said...

Why would you WANT to hold a note for 45 mintutes?

1:25 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Oly...trust yourself. I've only known you a short while my sister but you often sell yourself short in your post...believe in yourself, we do, and so does HE.

7:28 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Peter,

I think that convergence is one of the great contributions to the emergent conversation that African-Americans and jazz theology can make.

Kenny G and hootenanny. The only thing I would add is that while it is true that jazz is not about a show for people out there...it deeply needs the people out there to be a part of the convergence...hence the definition of a hootenanny. Jazz theology when applied to the church sees the congregation as absolutely essential to what is happening.

Kenny G only needs an audience if it is some enthralled girl for him to gaze into her eyes as he holds an unbearably long note...that is using the audience not needing the audience.

7:40 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Leslee,

it was an E note. does that clear things up for you?

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Berry said...

Just sending a friendly welcome.

11:12 AM  
Blogger olympiada said...

Jazz Theo - you are the second man to tell me to trust my self. I learned some bad theology from Christ the Savior Brotherhood which I have been unlearning since April, but it will take awhile.

4:57 PM  
Blogger in2jazz said...

jazztheo...

I am just passing through your blog. I will have to add you to my favorites so I can come back more.

As for Kenny G, I put him in the same class as Diana Krall. They are the kind of "comfort jazz" that goes the "Volvo driving-over 30 with kids - former rocker" crowd buy to play at their dinner parties not that it is not proper for them to play the Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Qamar said...

Sometimes the demarcations that separate genres (e.g. jazz from classical) can get a little blurred. Example: "The Grande Passion: World Sinfonia" by Al DiMeola is generally considered jazz, yet the classical influences upon this recording often take the forefront. With the endless (and ever-growing) sub-categories within the larger genres, someone like Kenny G can find himself categorized in a musical "no man's land" (which is probably where many hope he finds a permanent residence).

He borrows from a lot of styles, yet does not seem too entrench himself to deeply in any. I think part of his large popularity is that lots of people hear enough of what they like to listen further. His music is rather homogenous... a quality that many people like.

Personally, I prefer when he is a featured guest on other people's music (he did a couple nice songs on the first Rippington's album). Listening to an entire album of his own is challenging because after a couple songs, I find my thoughts wandering toward music where the artist is at least committed to something.

I think, to answer your question, is that he is "something else," but tries to incorporate recognizable styles.

1:22 PM  

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