The mystery of Kenny G

The biggest New Year’s resolution for someone like me who dedicates a column to matters of taste (the good and the bad) should be to cultivate patience and generosity. Patience to watch the programs and series until the end and generosity to omit the derogatory notes that are the salt of these texts, since the prose appreciates the bites and becomes tense with the caresses. There is something sadistic in the nature of this trade that cannot be fully suppressed, because it justifies it in part: the columns that carry shrapnel are read much more than those that carry sugar.

My inspiration for this New Year’s wish – which, like all others, will remain unfulfilled – is Penny Lane. Not the song, but the homonymous documentary maker, who has signed a masterpiece on HBO Max entitled Listening to Kenny G.

With the elevator music tag, Kenny G sums up all the sins of bad taste: flat, banal, tacky and cheesy. It’s a music lover’s nightmare and an insult to the jazz police. Good tone demands dismissal with a mockery. However, he sold records by the millions, and millions of people enjoy him and applaud him wildly at concerts. For the intellectual, the music lover and the superb columnist like me, something that Penny Lane tries to decipher escapes us: why does Kenny G connect with his time in a way that no great musician can?

Approaching such a caricatured phenomenon without prejudice requires a firm and courageous gaze, one that serves true intellectual curiosity. Kenny G is probably sound garbage, but to understand why he succeeds is to understand something deep and important about reality. That should be the motto of anyone commenting on what they see and what they hear. I’ll try to follow her, but I don’t promise anything.

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The mystery of Kenny G