It might surprise you to hear that Kenny Gorelick, more popularly known as Kenny G, has been appearing professionally for thirty years. From his first appearance as part of Barry White’s Love Unlimited band in 1976, he moved on to forming his own group and eventually to finding a formula that made him into a superstar with global sales of 75 million albums — while at the same time causing jazz purists to grind their teeth. Many feel that “smooth jazz” is a marginal genre to begin with, and that his personal style, with minimal improvisation and a tendency to stay on melody, is not really jazz.
That’s probably a little harsh, but Kenny’s fans really don’t care how you label his music — they’re just happy that there’s a new album due to be released later this month. The content of the album is in the title, I’m in the mood for love – the most romantic melodies of all time. Kenny once again illustrates the straight-ahead playing style that makes the traditionalists shudder, but it’s probably ideal for this mix of romantic ballads. Most people are looking for familiarity when listening to standard love songs, because after all that’s part of the definition of a standard.
Kenny is joined by his usual collaborator,keyboardist Walter Afanasieff, who also acts as arranger and producer. They’re backed up by by a solid ensemble, but there’s little doubt who’s the star here and Kenny is at the center of every song. The album contains 13 cuts (listed below) and most will be familiar to you as they’ve been around a while, but there are a few newer tunes. For example, included are instrumental versions of Alicia Keys’ hit “If I Ain’t Got You”, and Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”, but it’s mostly about the old songs. Included are standards such as “As Time Goes By” and “I’m In The Mood For Love”, and one I especially enjoyed,“The Way We Were”.
Personally, I’ve always been a sucker for the old songs and I enjoyed this album, although I also like the same songs when played by more traditional jazz artists, and it’s kind of interesting to compare them. As an experiment, I listened to Kenny playing “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and I appreciated his solid, linear version that left little doubt about the melody. I then listened to the same song by Lee Konitz, and found that I enjoyed it too, but was fascinated by what Konitz did to improvise around the melody while still keeping it recognizable. I think that the point I’m trying to make is that maybe we shouldn’t narrow our focus too much — a lot of different interpretations of a song can be valid and any of them can be an enjoyable experience. It’s really up to the individual listener.
A solid effort from Kenny G and an enjoyable listen for his fans or for anyone into smooth jazz.
1. You’re Beautiful
2. The Way We Were
4. I’m In The Mood For Love
6. The Way You Look Tonight
7. If I Ain’t Got You
8. Love Theme From “Romeo & Juliet”
9. It Had To Be You
10. The Shadow Of Your Smile
11. Fly Me To The Moon / You Make Me Feel So Young
12. As Time Goes By
13. You Raise Me Up