With age comes maturity and mastery.
Kenny G is living proof of this statement when it comes to his music, loved by some and reviled by others.
He showcased the depth of his music last Sunday at his one-night Kenny G World Tour Malaysia 2018 concert. Organised by Star Planet, the sold-out performance was Kenny’s third time performing at the Arena Of Stars, Resorts World Genting.
Referred by The New York Times as “the regent of the smoothiverse”, the highly-acclaimed saxophonist has sold over 75 million album copies worldwide in the last three decades and continues to appeal to smooth jazz fans.
Like a true professional, he started his concert at 8.30pm sharp, making his trademark entrance from the rear of the arena, playing as he walked through the audience.
Along the way, Kenny halted a slow ballad to display his signature soft-edged technique to hold a single note using the circular breathing method, for several minutes before making his way to the stage and launching into Silhouette.
Heavily improvised from the studio recorded version, he modulated the tempo between quick and slow to showcase his mastery of the instrument.
Once he got onstage, we heard some grooving and bopping in G-Bop, before he slowed it down in Forever In Love from his 1992 Breathless album – the song which won him a Grammy award for Best Instrumental Composition.
The petite, curly top 62-year-old, whose real name is Kenneth Gorelick, is indeed getting better every day.
Switching between soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, Kenny’s chops and rolls were extremely organised during his unaccompanied solos. His melodies purred and the audience indulged in these.
Apparently, he still puts in three hours of practice daily, running his scales and perfecting his technique, just to stay as sharp in his 60s as he was at 17, when he first joined Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra.
He was recently quoted in an interview: “I’m always trying to learn how to play my scales better and jazz licks faster, higher, cleaner, stronger, longer, everything. It’s like (being) an athlete. You may be very great at what you do, but you’ve still got to keep training so you can maintain. I suppose if I only practiced about a half hour a day, I’d probably maintain where I am. But I’m trying to get better and better. There’s no end to how good you can be.”
Kenny gave the audience what they wanted to hear – his popular tunes such as Going Home, Heart and Soul and the theme from Titanic – along with a slice of Caribbean with Havana. Sticking to the Latino mood, he also melted hearts with a soulful rendition of Stan Getz’s Desafinado.
For Asian fans, he rendered Teresa Teng’s The Moon Represents My Heart.
One of the most memorable moments that night was Cadenza where Kenny was really at his best. His finger dexterity and breath control were spectacular. Cadenza led into Songbird, and the romantics in the crowd lapped up the impressionistic ballad.
The sax star was accompanied by his five-man band, which has been playing together for over 30 years! His keyboardist has been playing with Kenny since high school.
While each had his skill, percussionist Ron Powell deserves special mention. Adept in many percussion instruments, he showcased his finesse on the tambourine and conga with a bit of stamping and jigging thrown in.
Sweat flew all over the stage and as the crowd cheered wildly, the excited Powell took it up a notch, combining athleticism and comedy into his style. It was akin to watching a musical version of Harlem Globetrotters.
For the encore, Kenny played The Moment from his eponymous album released in 1996. The thought-provoking slow love tune left us reflecting how far the sax artist has progressed over the last four decades. Perhaps the best is yet to come.