Monday, January 30, 2006

The Essential Kenny G
CD Review by Sombrero Grande

The music of Kenny G is not something that’s easy to actively listen to; it stealthily slips into the background, becoming the mere undercurrent to whatever one may be actively experiencing at that time. Before you know it, you almost forget that you’re listening to it at all, but the melodies get filed away somewhere subconsciously and stick with you. Later on you’ll hear one of his songs again and you’ll feel like you know every note. At his best, Kenny G’s music is hauntingly beautiful and the new 2-disc CD set The Essential Kenny G is a great collection for showing off his range with a variety of his greatest hits and personal favorites.

While not every song in this collection personally suits me, it’s nevertheless nice to have a wider variety of work showcased than I was expecting. Though I find his version of “Pick Up the Pieces” completely unnecessary as a stand-alone song, it’s an unexpected upbeat jazzy number that serves as a pleasant counterbalance to much of the rest of the collection. I see his “duet” with Louis Armstrong on “What a Wonderful World” to be just as gratuitous, and his Millennium Mix version of “Auld Lang Syne” to be little more than a novelty alongside dusty “Y2K” jokes, but I can understand their place in an “Essential Kenny G” collection and feel like they don’t detract too much.

A nice addition to this set is the brief “commentary” the G provides in the liner notes about each song. I enjoyed learning a little trivia behind some of the tunes I really enjoy, like the reasons he wrote certain songs, that “Silhouette” was recorded in an apartment instead of studio or how he attributes his notoriety to performing “Songbird” on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Though I have to wonder if Kenny went to the Elaine Benes School of Exclamation Mark Usage, since he uses them in bunches--up to three at a time!!! It may only bug English teachers and me, but still...c’mon, where’s his copyeditor? I half expected to see a “LOL” or “:)” show up.

Those minor detractions aside, there are a great deal of wonderful songs scattered throughout the two discs, making for hours of listening enjoyment for smooth jazz fans. Even if you already own Kenny G’s Greatest Hits album like I do, there’s enough new material and new arrangement of old to make The Essential Kenny G a worthwhile purchase.


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