Is he a musical mastermind or a soulless money machine? Opinions on Kenny G are sharply polarized. Filmmaker Penny Lane wonders why some people get so worked up about this immensely popular saxophonist. In Listening to Kenny G, she allows both sides to speak, and places the lovable artist himself center stage.
Jazz professors and music critics do their best to analyze Kenny G’s easy listening and smooth jazz sound. “A corporate attempt to soothe my nerves,” says one expert. “Musical furniture,” comments another. One thing for sure is it’s not real jazz, because real jazz is much more complex. But that hasn’t prevented Kenny G from becoming the bestselling instrumentalist of all time. Surely all his millions of fans can’t be wrong?
In interviews, it’s mostly Kenny G himself who resolves the bitter conflict between “low” and “high” art with great charm. The artist is endearing, enthusiastic, passionate, and not averse to a touch of self-deprecating humor. He doesn’t need music theory to spellbind his audiences.