[JPL] Music Preview: Kenny G shrugs off critics, racks up sales

Toby Gleason toby_gleason at sbcglobal.net
Thu Dec 6 12:57:00 EST 2007


Though I have made a personal vow never to play a Kenny G CD on my  
radio shows, I have, lately, found myself in the somewhat awkward  
position of DEFENDING "smooth jazz." The fact of the matter is that  
three of the of the most famous jazz record labels in the U.S. began  
their existence producing what was then called "commercial jazz;" -  
well performed, lushly produced and packaged and less melodically  
challenging than straight ahead, be bop or modern free jazz. Those  
labels were Impulse, Verve and CTI (Blue Note stuck with more  
straight ahead jazz.)

That style of jazz went on to be called "cocktail party jazz," and,  
ultimately, "smooth" jazz. It is jazz, just jazz with a more R&B- 
style rhythm section. Thus, it is more accessible, less challenging  
and easier to dance to than other jazz styles.

Kenny G has probably brought more people to John Coltrane than all of  
jazz radio combined, just by his playing the soprano sax. And that is  
a good thing. If smooth jazz, in general, helps to hip more people to  
straight ahead, be bop, big band or modern jazz, then it is to be  
applauded, not derided.

We who have straight ahead jazz radio shows don't have to PLAY smooth  
jazz, but we shouldn't spend out time and energy bitching about it.  
We should be finding ways to connect it to what WE do for the  
listener and turn new listeners on to the purer forms of jazz that we  
play.

Toby Gleason
KRCB-FM
On Dec 6, 2007, at 9:31 AM, jazzproglist at jazzweek.com wrote:

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> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Funny. Last night I went to a Jethro Tull concert...for nostalgia  
> sake...
> and for most of the evening Ian Anderson talked about jazz. Really.  
> Many
> of their pieces were re-arranged in a "jazz" style. Now, the question
> could be how "much" jazz was there? When they played swing...the  
> drummer
> kept a very distinct four/four on the bass drum so you could  
> definitely
> hear the repetition in the beat....like old school swing...but the  
> problem
> was it didn't swing. Ian improvised much on flute. Most of this  
> though was
> "effectual" with grunts...screams...etc....and playing the most  
> basic of
> scales through minimal and very simplistic chord progressions. Now  
> when he
> sez he was playing jazz...I guess you could say he was...sort of...  
> and
> there in lies the problem. Just about any musician can say this IF  
> they
> improvise a "little." Too many though don't say they are playing a
> "little" jazz...they just say they're playing jazz. When I read where
> Kenny is saying he has "improvisation" in his
>  music he would be correct. My questing is at what level?
>
>   By todays standards you don't have to play a lot of jazz to be
> considered a jazz musician AND have a following. Actually the bigger
> following you have...the less jazz you're playing. Sometimes all  
> folk need
> is to "see" a saxophone on stage and they will say that group played
> "some" jazz. From my perspective now it's pointless to dis him for  
> what he
> does. More power to him but it's the perception that surrounds  
> him ...that
> he is very guilty of creating...in reference to jazz....that gets  
> to me.
> And is willingness to play on peoples ignorance. He knows very well  
> his
> audience would believe just about anything he says and if he tells  
> them
> he's improvising...then oh well...to them he's playing jazz and  
> they don't
> care...and really don't understand...at what level nor could he  
> truly give
> a rats bumbum about what those who really know a thing or two about  
> this
> music...think.
>
>   Jae Sinnett
>
> Jazz Promo Services <jazzpromo at earthlink.net> wrote:
>   For sponsorship info: email jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
>
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07340/839298-42.stm#
>
> Music Preview: Kenny G shrugs off critics, racks up sales
>
> Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
> Though has endured considerable criticism and even revulsion from
> musicians,
> music critics and jazz fans for not playing "real jazz," Gorelick  
> shrugs it
> off ...
> --
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