Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kenny G brings smooth jazz mastery to town

December 5, 2017 by Fred Cameron, contributing writer

What exactly is smooth jazz? Smooth jazz is rumba beats from an enormous kit of congas and bongos, meshing tightly with a snare-heavy six-piece drum kit. It’s beautifully walked bass lines paired with a moaning Stratocaster. Smooth jazz is the electric piano sound that breaks the awkward silence in elevators across the globe. Something is missing here… Ah, here we go: smooth jazz is Kenny G.

Kenny G is the definition of smooth jazz (photo provided).

Kenny G came to town on Monday, December 4 with his The Miracles Holiday & Hits show at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. The lights dropped as the band took to the stage. The sounds were as soft as jazz can be, and designed to offend as few ears as possible; just when people started looking around for a cocktail waitress, a spotlight shone into the audience, revealing Kenny G’s legendary hair. He began as he begins every show, slowly playing his way through the crowd and defining the word “staccato” as he climbs the riser in the center aisle on the floor. Kenny G is a living, breathing caricature of himself, putting on a clinic of technical solo work before finishing his trademark entrance by holding a note for several minutes in a display of the circular breathing that put him in the Guinness Book of World Records.

His band has been touring together for over 30 years; this was evident, as they owned the stage for two sets. The first set dragged at times but was highlighted by a five-minute demonstration of what other percussionists strive to achieve as Ron Powell beat the congas, bringing the clapping crowd into the performance.

The second set began exactly as one would expect a Kenny G Christmas concert to sound, until bassist Vail Johnson took us from “Amazing Grace” into a stop-and-pop slap solo that would make Flea jealous. The pace was set for a cover of funk classic “Pick Up the Pieces.”

As the end neared, the band stepped aside, allowing Kenny G to remind us why he has sold 75 million records: he plays with unequalled speed and mastery in the lost art of the saxophone.

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