The G-Man looks to the east
In a short chat with Kenny G at the Four Seasons Hotel on his recent stopover in Hong Kong as part of his Asian tour, arguably the most commercially successful instrumental recording artist in history came across as warm and easygoing.
In spite of the marathon interviews the saxophone maestro was subject to on the day of his concert, Kenny G patiently talked about his new album and how he felt back in Hong Kong two years after his last concert in the city.
'Hong Kong is the first place I've ever played in China. It's a very special city. I like the architecture, the food and harbour.'
Sporting his signature ringlets, the casually-dressed star picked up his saxophone and effortlessly played a melodic tune when asked by a photographer to pose against the glass curtain at the hotel.
Simple wardrobe and minimal stage effects have long been the rule rather than exception at his concerts.
The charismatic jazz performer's forte is in his dexterous manoeuvring of the soprano sax. The same musical vigour overflows in his new album - Rhythm & Romance. Most of it being composed by the sax player and his long-time associate producer and songwriter Walter Afanasieff, the new Latin album has traces of bossa nova, samba, salsa and Peruvian lando. 'I wanted to do something different. I wanted it to be an album of original material. It's good to add a different flavour to my style.'
Born Kenneth Gorelick in Seattle, Washington in 1956, he is the biggest-selling jazz performer of the modern era, having sold more than 75 million albums. His musical career began as a saxophone soloist for Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra at the age of 20. His breakthrough came in 1986 with the release of Duotones which went multi-platinum thanks to its hugely popular lead track - Songbird.
His subsequent albums notched up huge sales around the world. He is also the holder of the world record for sustaining the longest single note (45 minutes, 47 seconds, achieved by circular breathing.)
The star re-enacted this record-breaking feat at his concert at AsiaWorld-Arena on May 9.
Interweaved with his popular songs in the concert were a host of passable Cantonese sayings (much more sincere than the usual 'How are you?' and 'I love Hong Kong' delivered by most overseas stars) which brought the audience's emotion to fever pitch. Given the huge popularity he enjoys in China, Gorelick is planning a CD for the Chinese market. 'We plan to put together 10 or 12 duets with artists like Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wang Lee-hom, Lang Lang and so on. No western artists have ever done duets with Chinese artists. It will be something very special.'
Another upcoming venture is an online radio station based in the US.
'The Kenny G Radio Station will go on air next month. I will select the music, introduce songs ... I can do whatever I want, it's my station.'
In spite of his tremendous commercial success, Gorelick is hardly immune to ruthless attacks from critics.
With many of his hit songs being sentimental jazz standards, the star has been dubbed all kinds of epithets - the king of muzak and elevator music - by the jazz purists.
As if acknowledging the axiom that success is bound to incur envy, he brushed off the attacks with his trademark self-deprecating humour.
'That's what people do. Their job is to criticise. They have to feed their family. I don't want them to lose their job. I just do my job. It doesn't affect my music.'