KENNY G once said: “The greatest flattery that anyone could say is that I had a unique sound. That’s what I’m working for, to create a sound of my own.”
Still, jazz purists dismiss him as nothing more than a ‘pop’ saxophonist, whose music is only fit as background music in hotel lobbies and lifts.
Despite those criticisms, Kenny G has gone on to become the undisputed best-selling musical instrumentalist of the modern era.
In a career spanning four decades, the 62-year-old Seattle native released an impressive 18 studio albums, won multiple Grammy-award nominations, and garnered album sales in excess of 75 million.
Along the way, he earned a reputation as a consummate live performer, capturing the hearts and minds of fans around the world.
Not bad for a so-called ‘pop’ saxophonist.
His Malaysian fans certainly thought so, as they packed the Arena of Stars at Resorts World Genting last Sunday night for his world tour concert organised by Star Planet.
For lifelong fans such as myself, the wait was excruciating.
Finally, the lights dimmed as the band members took their places, signalling the start to what promised to be an unforgettable evening.
All eyes were glued to the stage, but Kenny unexpectedly walked down from the rear of the arena with tenor saxophone in hand, much to the surprise and delight of those present.
After briefly waving at the crowd, he played the first song of the night, Home, making his way to an elevated platform in the middle of the arena.
Swapping out the tenor for his signature alto saxophone to perform his bestselling Silhouette, he had the entire arena in awe as he held the final note for two minutes, leisurely making his way to the stage to a crescendo of cheers.
And that pretty much set the tone for the entire evening, as Mr G held court doing what he does best – rattling off a mouth-watering musical tour de force of hits.
However, he didn’t do it alone.
His band – comprising high-school pal Robert Damper on piano, percussionist Ron Powell, guitarist John Raymond, bassist Vail Johnson, and drummer Daniel Bejarano – all played a part.
Calling them “his wingmen”, Kenny revealed they have been touring and performing together for 30 years.
He joked that Raymond had more hair than him back in the day, after which the guitarist gamely removed his hat to reveal a bald head!
Each band member also had a solo segment to showcase his skill, from Raymond’s amazing guitar solo on the Caribbean-inspired Havana, to Damper displaying his deft piano skills on Desafinado, a tribute to jazz legend Stan Getz.
Much hilarity ensued when percussionist Powell (who delivered a killer congo set) performed a series of complicated beats, egging the crowd to mimic him by clapping their hands.
Longtime fans and new ones were not disappointed as Kenny performed Going Home, Forever in Love, Jasmine Flower, Teresa Teng’s The Moon Represents My Heart, and the Grammy award-winning Forever in Love.
One big surprise not included in the official setlist was the theme from Dying Young, the 1991 movie starring Julia Roberts.
Of course, any Kenny G concert would not be complete without his extended Cadenza solo, and beloved Songbird.
A soul-stirring rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On ended the night’s set, before Kenny and the guys returned for the encore, performing the aptly-named The Moment.
It was surreal to witness fans, both young and old, swaying to each note, using their smartphones to simulate a sea of fireflies.
It was truly an unforgettable experience, and one which I can now cross off my bucket list.