March 10, 2005
Pat Metheny on Kenny G

I'm a little surprised to learn that Kenny G did something recently that should have, but apparently hasn't, attracted enough outrage for someone like me to have noticed it. I can't do justice to what he did, but I can point you to this essay by Pat Metheny, which expresses a suitable reaction far better than I could have done. Check it out. Thanks to Lulu for the tip.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2005 to Music | TrackBack

There's no accounting for taste.

I had a similar reaction some years ago to a Lukas Foss "deconstruction" of JS Bach that was monstrous. (A wonderful woman stood up in the middle of the LA Bowl performance and announced loudly, to applause, "That's terrible!". LA cultural elites did not react that way, of course).

I'm less bothered by it today, figuring that thoughtful music listeners know what's what.

Similarly, if Kenny G wants to make a fool of himself, more power to the guy. He discredits himself, and only calls attention to the genius of Armstrong in the process. Is that such a bad deal, really?

Posted by: kevin whited on March 10, 2005 9:22 AM

"But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible."

Posted by: cacafuego on March 10, 2005 9:24 AM

Louis Armstrong is to jazz what Hank Williams Sr. is to country music.

Kenny G is to jazz what Kenny Chesney is to country music.

Kenny G does not deserve to be in the same genre as Louis Armstrong. He's closer to new age claptrap performed by John Tesh than he is to jazz. Hell, Bernie Williams is more of a jazz musician than Kenny G is (yes, I'm talking about the Yankees centerfielder. He is a legitimately talented guitar player in both the jazz and classical genres). I could see if Wynton Marsalis had perfomed such a tune, since he and Louis Armstrong are of the same caliber (and Wynton respects Louis Armstrong more than anyone to the point of not addressing him as "Louie"), but this is a travesty.

Sorry about the rant, folks, but I just came back from a ten day vacation. :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on March 10, 2005 10:06 AM

I don't think Pat Metheny should worry about me joining the boycott. I wasn't listening to Kenny G anyways.

This squares pretty well with what my musically-talented friends have been saying for years about Kenny G.

To be fair, I don't listen to enough jazz (my familiarity extending pretty much exclusively to Miles Davis's catalogue and a few other well-known odds and ends, e.g. Dave Brubeck's Take Five album and a handful of Chick Corea's more popular stuff). Still, I have to agree with Metheny, et. al. in saying that Kenny G isn't really a jazz artist. It's just the same stuff over and over again.

Posted by: Jim D on March 10, 2005 11:02 AM

Any raging musical debate involving Pat Methany will invariably find me on Pat's side.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on March 10, 2005 11:38 PM

According to the Press, Metheny is playing the Verizon Wireless Center on Monday night.

There may still be tickets available!

Posted by: Jim D on March 11, 2005 3:27 PM

Hmm, I wonder if Pat really would lay this on Kenny G. if Pat actually crossed paths with him? Pat says a lot of musicians are envious of the money Kenny has made. Is Pat among those envious musicians?

Posted by: Armando on April 3, 2005 3:34 PM

Can you separate the man from his music? Just a thought.

Personally, I don't care for the pop music (yes..pop, not jazz) that Kenny G plays. But I don't think I've ever heard of him trashing other musicians. I like Pat metheny's music, but after reading his "essay" on Kenny G I would have to say that my opinion of him was knocked down quite a few notches. I found it very snobbish and narrow minded. You CANNOT compare Mr. G to Mr. Coltrane. It's like comparing Britney Spears to Maria Callas. Can't do it. But I think there's room for all them.

Music is a lot of things to a lot of people. That's why it is called an art. I am a classical and jazz musician. My philosophy is "Play what you like. Listen to what you like."

Posted by: John W on June 16, 2005 6:34 PM

I am a big Pat fan and always will be. BUT I was truly distressed by his pathetic trashing of Kenny G. He's entitled to his opinion but I thought he had more class than to stoop this low. It certainly didn't do anything to alienate Kenny G to me, all it did was make me think Pat needed to get some class. I find it difficult to reconcile this low behaviour with the man I thought he was. My opinion of him lowered after that diatribe - still waiting to hear about an apology. (Not holding my breath - but time changes viewpoints.) Come on, Pat, you have more class than this.

Posted by: JR on July 1, 2005 5:46 PM

Louis Armstrong was a musician for the common man - his music was ground breaking for its time, but nonetheless it was still popular music.

Metheny has never appealed to the common man - he destroyed all barriers of good taste by overplaying that guitar synth, hours of meaningless 'trumpet fart' noises saying absolutely nothing.

He may have fast fingers, and understand all the theory, but listen to the mediocre drivel he churns out in the name of music.

He'll starve if Elevator companies ever stop buying it


Posted by: KM on August 4, 2005 11:08 PM

i for think kenny g is on of the best jazz musicians arounn. he is a bit under louis but his music is good and i should know because i play one and it is hard to play sometimes

Posted by: matthew on January 25, 2006 2:06 AM

Man....don't even begin to compare Kenny G to Armstrong or Metheny or Coltrane or Sample or Benson or MONK or or or....Kenny G is the proverbial VANILLA PLAYER...whether he's trying to do new age or pop crap...but don't make the mistake of confusing him with Jazz players at all unless you've listened to the real greats!!! Jazz is not Kenny G...he doesn't have it...nor does he feel's just NOT his bag!!! It's not his fault...he just doesn't have it.....AND THE REST OF THE MUSICIANS MONITORING THIS FORUM KNOW IT....RIGHT?

Posted by: DJ on February 22, 2006 7:46 PM

Not for nuthin' does Metheney rise to the occasion on the subject of style, respect, and trash talking. It always irks me to hear middle of the road musicians getting the big airplay and subsequent money, such is life, and so is the cutting criticism that this bunch receives. Monetary success in the music biz has only occasionally been comensurate with true talent and genius, but usually it does have to do with the ability to catch a popular wave and have a solid business plan. If thats not aggravating enough, when one of these characters puts their graffiti on a respected piece of art, yeah, a little venting, or even alot, from a genuine talent is deserved. Oh yeah, whatever someones guitar sound is, if the tunes attracts other talented musicians to it, it makes it tough to put it down as trumpet fart noises. Hell I can't even make a trumpet fart like that!

Posted by: steelstring on March 25, 2006 6:42 AM

Kenny wrote inside the disk what was the reason why he learn to play the saxophone. He lived that music since a child... THAT�S MAGIC TO GROW UP. Why he, or other spirit couldn�t play what he feel,why? For me Kenny is a great master too, he play music, he touch hearts, his music gives peace,illusion,make the life something to really want to desire to enjoy it. Thanks to Kenny for be there, thanks for inspire with your music to others for learn to play music. Great hearts are happy with simple things...

Posted by: josi Gomez Amunarriz on August 23, 2006 6:08 AM

Wow... what an enormous hooopla over nothing! So PM doesn't care for KG's style or musical prowess (or lack thereof). Big deal. Being a world renowned jazz guitarist and composer it's not tough to believe that his opinion should carry a little more weight, regarding the musical abilities of Kenny G, than the typical numbnut sitting at his computer browsing the net. If that numbnut is entitled to an opinion, and the opportunity to make sure everyone reads it, why on earth shouldn't someone who actually knows what they're talking about also be entitled? If Oprah's guests are allowed to be offended and so is Pat Metheny.

He's right about one thing for sure though. It's a pity that an off the cuff personal opinion should be of so much more interest than the actual music he's devoted his life to creating. Electronic media just loves having something to squawk and flap about!

Posted by: BB on September 30, 2006 5:31 AM