While many of us are responsibly stuck at home during this time of pandemic concern, the need for entertainment and mental stimulation is high. For many, that means scouring the catalogs of the various streaming services available to us, or rewatching classic movies and series. Perhaps it involves marathon games of Monopoly or making TikTok videos with your family or filming videos of musicians living apart in buildings coming together in times of solitude to craft a jam session from their balconies...all extremely good ways to spend time. Oh, and working. One cannot forget all of the societal productivity that’s happening right now.
I, too, find the need for entertainment and mental stimulation, but it usually results in my ending up falling down rabbit holes. Which is what happened today. Allow me to share with you my thought processes. This morning as I hopped up out of my bed—swag may or may not have been turned on already—and made my way into the shower, I started thinking about what it’s like being a parent during these times of coronavirus, and filming some of it. I envisioned the video series I’d do, from start to end that would be interrupted frequently by little children. And I envisioned some kind of comedic cutaway shot with the intro to Kenny G’s “Silhouette” playing as background music. In my mental visual, there was glitter. It was magic.
It was at that moment—I’m still in the shower, by the way—where I said to myself, “P, how do you actually feel about Kenny G?” I asked myself this question because I know for a fact that I’ve claimed to not be a fan, at all, of one Kenneth Bruce Gorelick of the Seattle, Washington, Gorelicks. We all know him as Kenny G., one of the most mayo of jazz artists. Hell, I wrote a whole article questioning why he was a thing! Before this goes too far off the rails, let me be very, very clear: I grew up on Kenny G.
My parents loved them some Kenny G. It was nothing to hear the sultry saxophonic sounds of “Songbird” blaring throughout my home on a Saturday morning. Hell, that whole Duotones album got all of the burn in mi casa. “Silhouette?” I can VIVIDLY remember that album cover and, man, “I’ll Be Alright.” I heard that song so much. “We’ve Saved The Best For Last” with Smokey Robinson? Forget about it. All day, everyday. Point is, I grew up on Kenny G. Because of sheer repetition, at some point I was probably a Kenny G. scholar and—dare I say—fan.
That all changed when I got to college and went heavy into jazz. I went from Ahmad Jamal (probably my favorite jazz artist) to Yusef Lafeef to Coltrane and Miles (of course) and Sarah Vaughan and Alice Coltrane, etc. Donald Byrd? Fam...that is my DUDE. Bob James???? McCoy Tyner??? Come on, son. At that point, Kenny G. became that knockoff jazz artist co-0pting black art form and selling it to the masses making all of the money. I wore a lot of cargo pants and t-shirts with Nat Turner on them. Kenny G. was basically the jazz version of Eminem, except without the rap talents of Eminem. So I was out. You better not had brought that Kenny G. around here. And for the most part, nobody did. I basically hung with (and still do) hang with music snobs. My entire college years was High Fidelity lists on the daily except without the relationship entanglements.
I’m a little older now and less angry about everything—interestingly, I’ve spent the vast majority of my angry years being very happy; oh, to be young, gifted and black—and while I still don’t love Kenny G. I don’t think I carry the same disdain that I used to. Like, as I write this, I’m currently listening to “Songbird” and you know what….it ain’t terrible. It’s quite nice in parts. Does it sound like jazz by committee? Yes it does. But it turns out maybe I like jazz by committee.
I was reminded of this when I was in Ghana, actually, on a ride back home from a restaurant and a Kenny G. Christmas album was playing and I laughed because I realized that, man, black folks on every continent really do love them some Kenny G. And the song that was playing was quite nice. Now, if I’m being honest. Even if in my golden years I don’t detest Kenny G. the way I did during my entire 20s decade, I can’t see a world where Kenny and his sax are significant parts of my children’s musical education. In fact, if the introduction of Kenny G. ends up being a rude awakening for my kids in college I will absolutely feel like a successful black parent.
But if I’m out somewhere and a Kenny G. song comes on, and it will almost always be either “Songbird” or “Silhouette,” I will also refrain from lamenting the death of jazz and how folks like Kenny G. took our art form and ruined it. I mean, even Miles liked Kenny G. His roster of featured artists is basically everybody we all know and love. So perhaps I’ve been too hard on Kenny, and he’s just not for me as opposed to something to rail against. Plus, my parents still seem to love him so he can’t be that bad. I suppose this morning, the coronavirus brought me to a full circle moment about Kenny G.
Look at gawd.
So, how do YOU feel about Kenny G.? The coronavirus would like to know.