Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 November, 2009, 12:00am

The inclusion of a selection of 'bonus Christmas tracks' on the newly released DVD An Evening of Rhythm and Romance (Eagle Vision) by Kenny G tells us loud and clear which market it is aimed at.

This is the Christmas present every jazz fan will dread some well meaning friend or relative giving them, but will probably keep a lot of other people who enjoy the saxophonist's undemanding jazz-lite - smooth jazz, muzak or whatever you want to call it - happily sedated for a couple of hours after Christmas lunch.

It is not all bad - merely irritating in the way that Kenny G just is to so many of us. I don't dislike him for making an indecently large amount of money, but as a live performer he projects an air of self-satisfaction annoyingly out of proportion to the merit of the music he makes.

It unlikely that anybody will be brave enough to give this to Pat Metheny, who famously denounced him over the internet for daring to mix his soprano saxophone into Louis Armstrong recording of What a Wonderful World.

Kenny G has compounded the offence not only by doing it again, but by having a film of Armstrong singing the song projected on to the back of the stage.

Of the other covers, he picks up a tenor sax for an anaemic version of the Average White Band Pick Up the Pieces, and performs an instrumental version of James Blunt You're Beautiful which I dislike too much in its original incarnation to greatly care what happens to it here.

The band are respectable enough, but without the star guest players who lifted the Latin tracks on the album above Kenny G usual game, most performances here essentially amount to live renditions of music that belongs, at best, in the background.

Also available from Eagle Vision is Miles Davis: That What Happened Live in Germany 1987 which collects a concert film from that year with an interview featuring a surprisingly candid and courteous Davis talking about his music, drawing, and painting.

This is not the period of Davis' career that attracts the most critical praise, but it an underrated one, and Davis and his band packed more of a punch on stage than the last few studio albums suggest.

The tunes here come mostly from the You're Under Arrest and Tutu albums, and include the two pop ballads with which Davis returned to something like the melodic lyricism he used to bring to older standards such as My Funny Valentine and It Never Entered My Mind - Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and Michael Jackson's Human Nature. The rest are rougher-edged and in some cases surprisingly powerful.

Gigs of the week are tonight at Peel Fresco Music Lounge in Central (tel: 2540 2046) where pianist/saxophonist Jim Schneider fronts his group, the Assembly, before Bangkok-based singer Cherryl Hayes takes the stage with bassist Rudy Balbuena, drummer Joel Haggard, and pianist Jason Cheng. There's no cover charge, but the house requires a minimum purchase of two drinks per person. On Wednesday at 8pm, the Dixie Katz, a small group playing trad jazz, appear at Grappa's Cellar free of charge.