Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kenny G's Crimes Against Humanity

At those rare moments when I have been exposed to the music of Kenny G, I have found it pretty inoffensive — unexciting, to be sure, and not terribly inspired, to be even surer, but not quite on a par with child molestation, homophobia, racism, or genocide. Such astute listeners as the guitarist Pat Metheny, on the other hand, have described his playing as "lame-ass, jive, pseudo-bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, [and] fucked up." My guess, though, is that most who hate Kenny G's music most passionately know only that it's terribly uncool to enjoy it, and wouldn’t be able to tell Ornette Coleman from a can of Aqua-Net.

I hate that sort of piling-on. Anyone whose Top 1000 Heartaches list includes the popularity of Kenny G is living a charmed life.

The other evening, I was exposed to the music of Phil Collins at greater length than I’d have preferred. I found it fairly bland, but very well sung, well played, and nicely produced. If just before parachuting onto a remote atoll with a boombox and however many CDs I was able to grab, I was given a choice between Phil Collins and Nirvana, say, or Pearl Jam, or Alice in Chains, or any of that bunch, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab for Phil, though I might first ask if there weren’t some audiobooks I could take instead. 

I see that a new movie starring the incalculably talentless Keanu Reeves is about to open. Those who vilify Kenny G for being mediocre while a thousand far better saxophonists play for spare change on street corners might wish to note that Kenny G isn't exactly unique in being both not very good and hugely successful. I have not seen soggy newspapers on sidewalks with expressive ranges wider than Keanu's, but that doesn't mean that some day I don't expect to do so.

I am now advised that a lot of people find Kenny G especially loathsome for having overdubbed himself on the one Louis Armstrong record everybody's heard. For jazz lovers, who revere Armstrong (in spite of his duets with Carol fucking Channing and embarrassing perspiration schtick (he was forever patting himself dry with a handkerchief), this is tantamount to some grotty little vandal in gigantic jeans whipping out a can of spray paint and…tagging the Mona Lisa

Perspective, my dears! I deplore any artist helping himself or herself to the work of any other artist, but maybe we can derive some small solace from the gifted Mr. G not having defiled John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, for instance, or another work of genuine note. Armstrong recorded "Wonderful World" barely two years after Bull Connor directed his racist police force to sic dogs and turn fire hoses on nonviolent black demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. How very comforting for those intent on keeping black people in their place to hear that one of the best known of them, one who'd been allowed to grin his enormous grin and sweat prodigiously on The Ed Sullivan Show, nonetheless experienced the world as just peachy. Pay no attention to Dr. King, the record seemed to say. We happy as can be over here on the wrong side of the tracks. 

How do you desecrate a piece of shit?

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