Smooth jazz is his ticket. Some critics disparage his work as muzak, others rave about his saxophone-laced compositions which have a light and easy feel. Plus, his albums have been global top sellers for over 25 years.
He has just released Rhythm and Romance, which is flying off the racks. So, here’s Kenneth Gorelick, better known as Kenny G, locking horns in a ’phoner with Rachana Dubey.
Which part of the world are you in right now?
Los Angeles. It’s 10.30 pm right now, the city looks beautiful.
You were scheduled to do a concert in India. Now I hear that it has been cancelled. What happened?
A concert was scheduled for India on April 22-23. It has been cancelled because the promoter, who came to us with the offer, talked big but nothing materialised. I will be touring South-East Asia in April. I wish I could come to India and perform too. <b1>
Have you come to India before?
I’ve never had that opportunity .
Weren’t you invited to perform at a party hosted for Mira Nair in Mumbai some years ago?
Who? Who’re you talking about? Miiiiiira? What did you say her second name is? Naiiir? I’ve never heard of her or met her. I don’t know who she is. Maybe you are talking about Michael Bolton.
After over two decades in the business, are you still nervous on the eve of an album release?
Not nervous but as excited when I cut my first ever album over 25 years ago. When I’m recording my album, I live with it. I don’t worry about the sales. Yes, but I don’t want it to go unnoticed either.
Why the shift to the world music flavour in Rhythm and Romance?
That’s because I’ve tried idioms of Latin music. I love the way the saxophone vibes with Latin rhythm. My inspirations came from the jazz bossa nova sound of Cannonball Addenley and Stan Getz. I grew up listening to them.
I’ve believed that my music should have more rhythm and fewer ballads. In this album, there are quite a few up tempo songs.
Why did you switch your label from Arista Records to Concord?
Arista wanted me to do another album of classics. I didn’t see any point in doing cover tunes. So, Arista and I have divorced amicably .
Are you for unconventional methods of music sales – like Radiohead first releasing an album which could be downloaded from the net?
I think that’s for the better. Such ideas are relatively new but they will help in the long run. Everything is changing. If someone has to buy my music, he can go to my website to buy a copy. It’s a tricky option, yes, it has just started. But looking at the rate at which people have stopped buying music from stores, such ideas are a must. <b2>
Has your music ever been copied?
Yes. A couple of times.
What did you do then?
I could do nothing. It’s a terrible feeling when someone steals your music and plays it as his own. Mine were minor instances. It’s too much work to go out there and prove a point that a ‘musician’ has stolen my work. So, I left it at that.
Which have been your most criticised albums?
But there has been strong criticism of your work. Guitarists Pat Metheny and Richard Thomson came upfront to lambast your music.
Look, I feel pretty lucky that I have developed a high amount of selfrespect. I have never looked up to my so-called critics. To me, their criticism is meaningless.
Quite a few critics have called your music yuppie jazz.
See, all of us are accustomed to putting labels on everything. That’s how we identify things.Critics may label me a jazz yuppie. That’s up to them. I don’t care two hoots about negative reviews.
Do you care about praise then?
(Laughs) I don’t. If I don’t accept criticism, I shouldn’t accept praise either.
Do you look up to any artiste?
All of them who are virtuosos, whether it’s Celine Dion, Yo Yo Mah or Andrea Bucceli.
Your nine-year-old son Noah plays the piano and your 13-year-old son Max plays the sax. Right?
Yup. And when they grow up, they will have all my experience, my wisdom. They shouldn’t worry about what the world says or thinks, or join a band just for the money Once they get their music . right, everything else will fall in place.
It’s said that your albums are largely bought by women. True?
(Laughs loudly) Really? Who told you that? I’d love that.
How would you describe your 15-year-old marriage to Lyndie Benson?
I’m the sort who doesn’t want too many radical changes in life. I’m very old-fashioned, I love our marriage, it’s rock solid. I play golf, fly my plane, go do concerts and come back home to my family .
What has been the most romantic thing you ever did for your wife?
I bought the house we live in without telling her. It was a surprise. (Laughs) But now, I’ve made it clear that I can’t afford such expensive surprises anymore.
Finally, how serious are you about golf and flying airplanes?
I do play golf for celebrity tournaments. But that’s it. If I were a golfer by profession, I’d be starving.
As for flying, I have a small aircraft of my own. I guess I’m a decent pilot or else I wouldn’t have been alive to tell you that I’ve been a certified pilot for 20 years.