Kenny G set to impress in Merced
By BEVERLY BARELA
March 16, 2017
award-winning saxophonist Kenny G became commercially successful
when his album "Duotones" was released in 1986
featuring soulful and melodic instrumental numbers like
"Songbird," and he has continued to be enormously
popular to the present.
He's the best-selling instrumentalist of the modern era,
with global sales of more than 75 million records.
On March 23, at the historic Merced Theatre in downtown
Merced, a local audience will have a chance to enjoy what
is being billed as "An Evening with Kenny G."
During a pre-concert phone interview with the Times, Kenny
G sounded strikingly humble and down-to-earth.
"To me, I’m creating melodies and making sounds
that I hear inside of me," he said. "It’s
the challenge of creating a great melody and playing in
the way I hear it in my heart."
Kenny G was so comfortable and pleasant to talk to that
it wasn't hard to imagine how he could collaborate so remarkably
with the many high profile vocalists with whom he has worked
— including Whitney Huston, Michael Bolton and Frank
He explained: "The saxophone is a pretty easy instrument
to include because I can weave my playing in, so it gives
me the opportunity to play a lot of duets. I’m trying
to figure out what notes to play that don’t get in
the way of their vocal but it still makes it sound that
I’m doing more than just fluffy notes."
Kenny G said he writes music sometimes while driving in
the car, or waking up in the morning. "I hear one chord
on the radio and it starts the process," he said, "and
sometimes you go into the studio and say, ‘I’m
going to write a song between 10 and 11 a.m.’"
When asked where his studio was, he said, "I live in
L.A. now, and my studio is at my house. I used to live in
Sherman Oaks, but I’m on the West side now. There
are a lot of great people, lots of good stuff going on in
L.A., one of the entertainment capitals of the world. We
have to be here, or New York or Nashville. L.A. is where
I need to be. My goal is to keep becoming better."
He said that writing saxophone solos is easier now than
it used to be because of more advanced technology.
"I like to take my time when I do those things. We
have our digital recording machines now so I can try it
out, listen to it, change a few notes and over the course
of a few hours or a few days, come up with the right solo
for the right song."
When asked what he thought about becoming famous, Kenny
G replied, "I wasn’t thinking about fame, I was
just trying to play well, make good music and write good
songs. Otherwise, you’re doing things for the wrong
reasons —to be famous, to sell records. You do want
to sell records, but more importantly, you have to pay attention
to your music. Otherwise, you start to believe your own
press. Even now, I still practice saxophone three hours
When asked how he became successful, he said, "I was
born in Seattle. I was a normal public school guy, picked
an instrument when I was 10, and my band teacher taught
me to play. I saw someone on the Ed Sullivan Show playing
saxophone, and it inspired me. In the 1970s when I was in
high school I got good, and Barry White [singer-songwriter,
composer] was playing a gig in the northwest and their saxophone
player didn’t show up and my band director had a relationship
with someone and they had a conversation, so they had me
play with Barry White. That was a professional job and I
did well, and started playing lots of shows around the northwest.
There weren’t that many players in those days and
my name got around, and people started to realize that I
was a good player and I started doing more professional
"I joined a band called Jeff Lorber Fusion from Portland,
Oregon. Portland and Seattle were close enough. He asked
me to audition for his band, and I got the gig and he had
a record deal with [music producer] Clive Davis. So I automatically
got to play in front of the record people and after 5 years,
I got a record deal. Arista Records and Clive Davis behind
me gave me national exposure. But it took four albums to
really get a hit."
When asked about some of the great vocalists he has collaborated
with, Kenny G described some of the highlights, saying,
"Michael Bolton and I did years of performing live
together on the road, so we have a special relationship.
Whitney Huston and I did a whole year of touring, playing
to 12,000 or 15,000 people. I was her opening act. I was
on Frank Sinatra’s ‘Duets’ record."
Asked what the concert in Merced will be like, he replied,
"We’re going to play songs from our previous
records, and I’m sure people will know those melodies.
We never get bored and like to play anything. We improvise
so every time we play, it’s different. My band is
made up of great musicians, and there will be great solos.
Besides saxophone, they will hear piano, drums, bass, guitar,
He concluded, "It’s the first night of our California
run of dates. You’ll get us fresh off a couple weeks
In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of
World Records by playing the longest note ever recorded
on a saxophone. He held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47
To produce a continuous note without interruption, he uses
a technique called circular breathing which involves storing
air in his cheeks.
Will he demonstrate this amazing feat at the Merced Theatre?
It remains to be seen ... and heard.
For further information about "An Evening with Kenny
G" at the Merced Theatre at 301 Main Street in Merced
on Mar. 23 at 8:00 p.m., those interested can contact the
box office at (209) 381-0500.