Sunday, November 28, 2010

Satchmo, Please Forgive Us

Ken Gorelick (aka "Kenny G") is probably the most well-known saxophonist in America, as far as the general public is concerned.  Not that the American public knows all that much about jazz (or, for that matter, saxophones), but to be honest, what Kenny G plays isn't really jazz anyway.  Kenny plays "jazz" like Weird Al Yankovic performs contemporary music, which is to say, it's a joke.  Only Kenny isn't kidding.

Without going into a detailed analysis of Gorelick's simplistic, repetitive improvisational style or his out-of-tune, chainsaw-like tone quality, suffice it to say that there are literally hundreds of sax players who no one other than hard-core jazz aficionados has ever heard of (Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, and Jay Beckenstein, are a few quick examples) that could play rings around Kenny G.

Sure, Gorelick found a niche in the mainstream pop instrumental genre, and that's fine. It's not jazz, of course, but aside from that, I wouldn't feel compelled to comment on him at all if it weren't for a recording I heard not too long ago.

I was doing some browsing on iTunes, looking for Louis Armstrong's classic recording of "What a Wonderful World". You may be familiar with this tune from the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam." Anyway, while searching for that song, I came across the following:

What a Wonderful World (Kenny G and Louis Armstrong).

"What the bloody hell?" I said to myself.

Since Louis Armstrong died in 1971, not to mention that during his legendary career as one of the pioneers of jazz he never displayed any particular desire to collaborate with schlocky, curly-haired, white bread soprano sax players,  I thought it highly unlikely that he'd ever made a recording with Kenny G.  Against my better judgment, I went ahead and listened to the sample of the song, and then did a little research. It turns out that Kenny Fucking Gorelick had taken it upon himself to overdub his mindless noodling on top of Armstrong's classic master tapes, and then release the results on an album.

He may as well have pissed on the Mona Lisa.

It's not like Kenny was the first to do this, though. Natalie Cole released a very popular version of "Unforgettable", on which she'd dubbed her vocals over her father's original recording. I'm willing to cut Natalie some slack, because it was her father and there is a certain sentimentality to it.

But for Kenny G, of all people, to presume that HE had the right to defile Armstrong is simply absurd. It's one thing if, say, Wynton Marsalis did it. Wynton is a student of jazz history, and has complete respect for those who came before him. But Wynton has more class than to do such a thing.

Let me put it another way. Suppose you took your family on a vacation to London for the sole purpose of attending the Leeds Shakespeare Festival. You're very excited about this, a British theatre group performing the Shakespearean masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet. You get all dressed up, give your tickets to the pompous yet dignified doorman and take your seats. The curtain rises. During Act I, Scene I, Montague says, "Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow. We would as willingly give cure as know." Enter Romeo . . .

. . . played by Carrot Top.

What Kenny G did, in essence, was commit artistic necrophilia. He abducted Armstrong's classic recording of "What a Wonderful World", bent it over a table, and sodomized it with a soprano saxophone.

Gorelick, just go back to spewing your half-assed, bland-as-mayonnaise hits like "Songbird" and whatever else you've conned the public into listening to.

Leave the real musicians alone.


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Eva Gallant said...

Whoops. I kinda' like Kenny G. But then I am not a music connoisseur. I have not heard the album in question, though.

Murr Brewster said...

In hell, we will listen to Kenny G while drinking Bud and gazing at Thomas Kinkade paintings.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

But Kenny G. is just perfect music to listen to while while sipping non-alcohol wine and watching the servants wax an imported European car!

Fred Miller said...

Tessa had to ask me what the hell I was laughing at while I was reading this. So, I recited to her. "He may as well have pissed on the Mona Lisa." And Carrot Top playing Romeo. The sodomy was cool, too. Grossed me out.

I kind of like Kenny G, but you made me wonder what Satch would say. He'd be nice, of course. That's why you have to spank Kenny. Nice job.

Quirkyloon said...

Hold the saxoPHONE! (Thanks for that!)

Didn't you write this before?

Are you trying to pull a fast one on us?

I could've SWORN that I've read this before!

But then again any hatred of Kenny G sticks to the ribs.

Very filling that stuff.


vickilikesfrogs said...

I can't even think of a witty way to say this...Kenny G. is the damn devil and I hate his guts. No, wait...the devil is probably more interesting than Kenny G.! (sorry, devil)

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

But how do you really feel, Knuck? :-)

And I agree with everything Murr said, except that there won't even be Bud in hell. Just brackish water.

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