Arachnid wrote:best to tread lightly into jazz and learn the classics like Louis Armstrong
Which reminds me of an article I saved from years ago. Pat Methaney commenting on Kenny G
Kenny G is not a musician I really had much of an opinion about until recently. There was not much about the way he played that interested me one way or the other, either live or on records. I first heard him a number of years ago playing as a sideman with Jeff Lorber when they opened a concert for my band. My impression was that he was someone who had spent a fair amount of time listening to the more pop-oriented sax players of that time, like Grover Washington or David Sanborn, but was not really an advanced player, even in that style. He had ma¬jor rhythmic problems, and his harmonic and melodic vocabulary was extremely limited, mostly to pentatonic-based and blues-lick-de-rived patterns, and he exhibited only a rudimentary understanding of how to function as a professional soloist in an ensemble—Lorber was basically playing him off the bandstand in terms of actual music. But he did show a knack for connecting to the basest impulses of the large crowd by deploying his two or three most effective licks (holding long notes and playing fast runs—never mind that there were lots of harmonic clams in them) at key moments to elicit a powerful crowd reaction (over and over again). The other thing I noticed was that he played horribly out of tune, consistently sharp (which he does to this day).
Of course, I am aware of what he has played since, the success he has had, and the controversy that has surrounded him among musicians and serious listeners. This controversy seems to be largely fueled by the fact that he sells an enormous amount of records while not being anywhere near a really great player by the standards that have been set for his instrument over the past sixty or seventy years.
Honestly, there is no small amount of envy in musicians who see one of their fellow players doing so well financially, especially when so many of them who are far superior as improvisers and musicians have trouble simply making a living. There must be hundreds, if not thou¬sands, of sax players around the world who are simply better improvising musicians than Kenny G. It would really surprise me if even he dis¬agreed with that statement.
But, as I said at the top, this relatively be-nign view was all “until recently.”
Not long ago, Kenny G put out a recording where he overdubbed himself on top of a thirty-year-old Louis Armstrong record, on the track “What a Wonderful World.” With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can’t use at all—as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing; and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.
This type of musical necrophilia—the technique of overdubbing on the preexisting tracks of already dead performers—was weird when Natalie Cole did it with her dad on “Unforgettable” a few years ago, but it was her dad. When Tony Bennett did it with Billie Holiday it was bizarre, but we are talking about two of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, who were on roughly the same level of artistic accomplishment. When Larry Coryell presumed to overdub himself on top of a Wes Montgomery track, I lost a lot of the respect that I had for him—and I have to seriously question the fact that I did have respect for someone who could turn out to have such unbelievably bad taste and be that disrespectful to one of my personal heroes.
Normally, I feel that musicians all have a hard enough time, regardless of their level, just trying to play well, and that they don’t really benefit from public criticism, particularly from their fellow players.
But this is different. 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 lameass, 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 to be possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy, and, by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G reached a new low point in modern culture. We let this slide at our own peril.
and Spidey, the sparseness in Monk's playing makes his timing pure comedic genius.
ooooooooooh yeah Gould.