July 8, 2008

G Man

By Buescher, James

By James Buescher / Sunday News Correspondent The free flow of information over the Internet is revolutionizing the entertainment industry, and nowhere are the changes felt more keenly than in the music business.

Kenny G, the Grammy-winning composer and multiplatinum smooth- jazz saxophonist, said it's entirely possible that one day soon, record companies will become obsolete and music will be free.

Everything right now for musicians is changing, Kenny G said in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles. The future is not holding a physical CD in your hand; the future, whatever it turns out to be, is going to be the opposite of the record store.

How do you sell music in a world where people in the audience expect their music to be free? That's the state of things right now for musicians. ... It's not a bad thing; it's just different. And you've got to embrace what's happening head-on.

You can't live in the past.

Kenny G, who ranks No. 26 on the Recording Industry Association of America's career-sales list (just ahead of Shania Twain), will perform Thursday, July 10, at Clipper Magazine Stadium in downtown Lancaster. The concert is sponsored by Smooth Jazz 92.7 and the Lancaster Barnstormers.

A native of Seattle, Kenny G came into the music business late in life, making his big leap to Los Angeles to become a musician in his mid-30s.

Coming from Seattle, I was totally overwhelmed by the sunshine, he said. I remember that when I moved to L.A. it was November ... and I was like a fresh new flower.

Even though I miss Seattle terribly sometimes, coming to L.A. was the right choice. There's a lot to admire about Los Angeles, not in the least that, here, you're working with some of the best musicians in the world.

Signing with Arista Records for his 1982 self-titled debut album, Kenny G experienced a string of modest successes that led to his 1986 breakout album Duotones, which hit No. 1 on the contemporary jazz albums chart, No. 5 on the jazz albums chart and a startling No. 6 on the Billboard 200.

Having come across success in that way was so strange ... but since it happened a little later in my career, it gave me the confidence to say that it was OK to follow my instincts, he said. Before that, I was relying on producers' opinions, or on the record company, and it was only when I was able to take firmer control of things that my career ... was able to come together the way it did.

Since then, Kenny G has put out several more studio albums, two live albums, five greatest-hits collections, three cover albums, a duets album and four of the most popular holiday albums ever recorded, including Miracles, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 1994.

I'm still amazed by that. One of my producers just suggested I do something for the holidays, and I started thinking to myself, You know, I've never really heard a Christmas album that I actually liked.'

I had no idea it would turn out to be so popular. I just wanted to do a decent record, the kind you could throw on at a holiday party and not have to worry about.

With the music industry going through such radical changes right now, Kenny G is focused primarily on touring, hitting cities big and small to promote his new album, Rhythm and Romance.

And as the record industry goes through its digital-media growing pains, Kenny G is contemplating an adventure abroad in China.

China is emerging as one of the great powers of the 21st century, and I want to be on the cutting edge. I'm also extremely popular there ... and I'd like to figure out how to crack the code of China.

I think it would be a real adventure, plus a real accomplishment to learn Chinese, he said. Part of me is attracted to the idea of Hong Kong, with its glamour and artistic feel, but it's also fascinating to me how Shanghai is just exploding and on the verge of becoming ... a real world-class city.

Meanwhile, he said, he's focused on the here and now, spending most of his time touring and dealing with the travel headaches that arise between shows.

I love being on the stage, but it's hard to deal with airports and flight delays. I have to remember that I'm the leader of a team, and no matter how taxing the travel, I have to keep up a good attitude, he said.

Traveling, touring and meeting fans at his live shows, he said, is the only answer he's found to the current crisis facing the music industry.

Because of the impact of sites like iTunes, record stores are closing. The only way to do this job nowadays is ... to get out on the road and connect with fans, or else to use Internet sites like, for example, Facebook or my own Web site, www.kennyg.com.

The only way to survive is to make a connection with fans.

Kenny G will appear at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at Clipper Magazine Stadium, 650 N. Prince St., in downtown Lancaster. Tickets cost $40. For more information, call 509-3633.

Credit: James Buescher, Correspondent

(Copyright 2008 Lancaster Newspapers. All rights reserved.)

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