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Music Review: Kenny G – Heart and Soul

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It’s hard to argue with success. Well, I guess you have to define success, which means different things to different people. Here’s a prolific artist that has produced 23 albums in almost 30 years with combined sales of over 75 million. He even won a Grammy! Perhaps a loyal jazz purist might quibble over inclusion of Kenny G’s work in the jazz genre at all.

He’s only 54-years old, has his own brand of saxophone, plays golf with Phil Mickelson, and hangs out with other celebs. Give him credit for being a good businessman and keeping his loyal fan base satisfied. Can 75 million fans be wrong?www.geoffshackelford.com

Heart and Soul is being released on July 29 by Concord Records and is his 13th studio release. The album’s first single, “Fall Again”, is a Walter Afanasieff-Robin Thicke composition with Thicke handling the vocals. With one other exception, the remaining tracks are all composed by Kenny G and Afanasieff. When I first received the CD, I quickly popped it into my player (before reading the notes) and was expecting the first two tracks to be covers. “Heart and Soul” and “Deja Vu” certainly deceived me!

My first encounter with Kenny G was “Songbird” over the airwaves of America’s only high school radio station, WBRH, offering a smooth jazz format 24/7 from Baton Rouge High. It’s still a good song but I lost Duotones ten years ago in a divorce and never replaced it. When reviewing music, I’m reluctant to say that “it all sounds alike to me” with regard to a genre (traditional Irish or funk rock) or a particular artist. One comment from Concord’s website with which I can agree is “Fans will recognize Kenny’s signature style.”

The liner notes contain an attention getting photo of eight different saxophones. The credits indicate that Kenny plays tenor sax on only one track — all the rest feature the soprano sax. This listener was looking forward to a break from the past, something new, perhaps even ground breaking. A wildly popular artist with a loyal fan base, a dozen new songs on his second album with Concord, a release date just a few months before the Monterey Jazz Festival — he missed an opportunity to venture out into uncharted waters, stun his fans, impress new fans, and silence the critics who bemoan Heart and Soul as more of the same.

Would I buy Heart and Soul? No. I’d rather play the melody of “Heart and Soul” on piano with my daughter playing the harmony.

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  • Jordan Richardson

    Can 75 million fans be wrong?

    No, but they can be unimaginative losers. 🙂

    In all honesty, though, I don’t even know if you really reviewed the album here. Not like you had to or anything.

  • There was a time when writing something on the Internet even remotely favorable about Kenny G would generate an onslaught of putdowns from what you call “loyal jazz purists.” Three years ago I wrote a harmless, tongue-in-cheek review of “Songbird.” It generated such beastly feedback that the editor closed my review to comments and deleted the ones previously posted. Let’s see if the animosity towards Kenny G has abated over time. For your sake, I certainly hope so.

  • There was a time when saying anything even remotely negative on Blogcritics about Mr G would trigger a ferocious defence from an individual styling himself ‘Kenny G’s Assistant’.

    Haven’t heard from him for a while, which is a shame.

  • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate them all.

  • Can’t say that I can stand Kenny G. at all, but you did put him down in a rather civilized way. Instead of savaging the living daylights out of him (which he sort of deserves), you just let the facts speak for themselves: everything he does sounds the same. Done. Finished. The evisceration of Kenny G.
    But can 75 million fans be wrong? Have to agree with Jordan there. Losers, all of them.

  • Kenny G’s “assistant” has been known to pop in on us mere mortals here at BC from time to time, but its been awhile since he’s graced us with his presence.

    I do so hope this article brings him out of the woodwork again…