Now that Kenny G is a household name in the states, it’s become even more important to him to have his music heard in foreign countries, and to have “Kenny G: Year of the G” serve as his passport to the rest of the world.
Over the years, he has become a favorite of Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Estonian, Polish, German, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Slovak, Latvian, Russian, Swedish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Dutch, Luxembourgish, and Portuguese music festivals. While his success has largely stemmed from his music’s simplicity and flexibility, the much-dissected success of today’s streaming platforms makes him more aware than ever of the positive and negative impacts of how his music might be received around the world.
“Because today, music is being distributed completely digitally through all different types of platforms,” Kenny G says. “All different countries are accessing music at different speeds. And I wanted to address that because nowadays, I feel like there’s great need to know what the state of music in my part of the world is, because it is not the same. I think that helps all of us who play music to know that our music is not being heard everywhere at the same time. There are a lot of variations and changes that are happening, and my challenge was to show that in the story of my own career.”
Kenny G: Year of the G is a positive biography about the musician’s incredibly successful career. Although his highly trained falsetto-somewhat-covered-by-a-bass-bar style was hailed as one of the most “dated” forms of jazz, Kenny G (of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent) has transcended the genre and became one of the most influential artists in modern music. That’s a story that can include criticism from Rolling Stone and even an attack by Samuel L. Jackson, whom Kenny G has joked about directly following the president’s declaration that jazz music is on its way out. But the criticism is universal. In conversations with fans, critics, and friends about his success and career, Kenny G tends to hear his interpretation of things from two ears rather than one.
At any rate, that is a reason why he is now opening shows with bands that will also play some “anti-Kenny G” music.
“What happened with my music was, over time, some people were criticized for my type of music and some people loved it and wanted to support me,” he says. “In the Philippines, I had a lot of people singing anti-Kenny G songs. All my videos [from 2003] were used for fan videos. So I had my whole family there that would watch the videos. In England, I had some people singing my songs. So in all of the countries where I play, I can have my music used for the chorus of any of my songs.”
Yet those global audiences can only support Kenny G’s career, which is why he is also opening shows with some foreign acts. In fact, we can trace that back to 2011, when he performed with 12 years-younger German band Hermès, as well as the European import Gwendolyn (formerly known as Katharina).