Some say that KG’s style has a right to survive and thrive because of the whole idea that each of us has a right to practice the freedom of artistic expression. Others say that KG has taken the unique art form of classical jazz and have manipulated it in efforts to make a profit. These people feel that KG has no right to take a rich art form such as jazz; an art form that has been woven into the fabric of American history and allow it to be commercialized, subjecting it to inadequate representation.
There many artists within jazz community are passionately committed to the preserving and maintaining of the legacy of classical jazz. While there are many variations of styles which rest under the umbrella of the word “jazz”, there have been many artist thought recent decades who have been accused for abusing, abandoning and manipulating the distinct characteristics of classical jazz. Many of these artists have strayed from the signature sounds of classical jazz and have ventured off to the arena of “pop” or commercialism. KG is often cited as the greatest threat to the institution of classical jazz due to his soaring success in the commercial world. It is almost as if KG has monopoly on instrumental pop music.
KG indicated that he doesn’t like to label his music under a particular genre because he doesn’t want to “turn anyone on or off to his music” just because of the genre of which it is classified. KG prefers present himself as a universal musician and to commit himself to one musical genre would not be in his best interest. KG has borrowed his favorite musical ideas from among the different genres of music, compiled them all together, and eventually made his own arrangements. I believe that we can critique KG to a point but eventually, we are going to have to do a bit of introspection.
To be like KG or not to like be KG, that is the question...
As musicians, we will one be faced with the decision as whether to conform to the thoughts of the “true” jazz community or to be ostracized form those within the jazz community and be left to join KG in the commercial arena. No matter whichever path we each choose, we should still acknowledge that there is a current demand for KG’s music in the economy. We should each determine how we can best re-direct that demand towards us; while staying true to our own values.
The Next KG
I predict that within the next 20 years, a new musician will rise and eventually eclipse KG. This musician will attain great success by having a performance style just as bold, just as peculiar and just as controversial as KG’s. This musician could be either you or me. I believe that now is a good time for KG to endorse a new artist who could serve as a supplement to him and not as a replacement. When KG gets to the point where he cannot figure as fast or phrase as clearly, then I believe that KG will have to think seriously about how he will preserve his legacy. It will then be up to KG to demonstrate to the general public that he is indeed humble enough and professional enough to know when and how to pass the baton to his successor. To truly preserve his legacy, KG will need to ensure that there will be someone who is passionate about his music enough to where they feel compelled to compose and perform music similar to his signature style. By preserving the essence of KG’s sound for future generations, history will eventually regard KG as a trendsetter, a courageous innovator and a musical pioneer.
If you believe that it is your calling to be KG’s successor then you can expect to be highly criticized. Imagine being faced with the same number of critics that KG is currently faced with. If you indeed decided to follow the trail that Kenny G as blazed then I believe that you will encounter several obstacles in the short-run, but I also believe that your efforts could pay off in the long-run.