Kenny G sounds off on critics

Saxaphonist argues he's worth taking seriously

Wednesday it brings him to Chastain Park Amphitheater, but for years the sax man has taken hits from critics and fellow musicians who say he lacks jazz artistry. Yet Kenny G (his real name is Gorelick) has sold more than 75 million records collaborating with such vocalists as Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin. (Albeit, he was criticized when he resurrected the late Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" in a 1999 duet.)

More recently Kenny G ended his 25-year relationship with Arista Records. The saxophonist says the company was reluctant to produce the type of album that he wanted to make. He went over to Starbucks Entertainment and Concord Records and recorded his first Latin jazz album, "Rhythm & Romance." This week it's ranked No. 5 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz list.

Here's four questions with Kenny G.

Q: It was a big step to leave Arista. Was that because you weren't able to bring creativity to your music in the way that you wanted to?

A: They wanted me to record cover material. It was really about doing my original material. I like the idea of it being a Latin album. It was just something about Latin music with the sax sound that seemed really good to me.

Q: Do you think that you get a bum rap from music critics who say your music doesn't have depth?

A: I don't pay it any attention. Artists are supposed to make the music they like. I just keep doing what I like doing and things seem to work out OK.

Q: Your sons [ages 14 and 10] play the guitar and piano, do you play together? Hold jam sessions?

A: Not yet. They are young. They have to earn their right to do the real deal. They are still practicing their skill level and they are not really playing songs. Kids should practice the skill and technique of the instrument.

Q: What music do you listen to in you down time, other than your own?

A: I listen to music to study it, period. Not for the enjoyment of it. And then it's old jazz. People might say that doesn't sound right. I listen to Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane. It's mainly about technique and choices in notes and patterns for [me to] study.

Concert: Saxophonist Kenny G

8 p.m., Wednesday at Chastain Park Amphitheater. $25-$70. 4469 Stella Drive N.W., Atlanta. 404-733-4800, 404-249-6400, www.classicchastain.com.

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