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?
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.