Kenneth Bruce Gorelick (born June 5, 1956), better known by his stage name Kenny G, is an American adult contemporary and smooth jazz saxophonist. His fourth album, Duotones, brought him breakthrough success in 1986. Kenny G is the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era and one of the best-selling artists of all time, with global sales totaling more than 75 million records.
Kenny G was born in Seattle, Washington, to Jewish parents (his mother was originally from Saskatchewan, Canada) and grew up in the city's Seward Park neighborhood, which is a center of the city's Jewish community. He came into contact with a saxophone when he heard someone performing with one on The Ed Sullivan Show. He started playing the saxophone in 1966 when he was 10 years old. He learned how to play under the direction of local trumpeter Gerald Pfister and by practicing along with records (mostly of Grover Washington, Jr.), trying to emulate the sounds that he was hearing. His first saxophone was a Buffet Crampon alto.
Kenny G attended Whitworth Elementary School, Sharples Junior High School, Franklin High School, and the University of Washington, all in his home town of Seattle. When he entered high school, he failed on his first try to get into the jazz band, but tried again the following year and earned first chair. His Franklin High School classmate Robert Damper (piano, keyboards) plays in his band. In addition to his studies while in high school, he took private lessons on the saxophone and clarinet from Johnny Jessen, once a week for a year.
He was also on his high school golf team. He had loved the sport ever since his older brother, Brian Gorelick, introduced it to him when he was ten years old, which is the same age he was when he started playing the saxophone.
Kenny G's career started with a job as a sideman for Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973 while 17 and still in high school. He continued to play professionally while studying for a major in accounting at the University of Washington in Seattle and graduated magna cum laude. He played with the funk band Cold, Bold & Together before becoming a credited member of The Jeff Lorber Fusion. He began his solo career after his period with Lorber.
Kenny G signed with Arista Records as a solo artist in 1982, after label president Clive Davis heard his rendition of ABBA's "Dancing Queen". He has released many solo albums and collaborated with various artists including Andrea Bocelli, Whitney Houston,Peabo Bryson, Aaron Neville, Toni Braxton, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince,Natalie Cole,Steve Miller,Weezer, Dudley Moore, Lee Ritenour, The Rippingtons, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Bebel Gilberto, George Benson, Chante Moore and Aretha Franklin. Influenced by the likes of saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., his own albums are usually classified as smooth jazz.
He received success quite early on, with both G Force and Gravity, his second and third studio albums respectively, achieving platinum status in the United States. These sales were topped by his fourth studio album, Duotones, which sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. His sixth studio album, Breathless, became the number one best selling instrumental album ever, with over 15 million copies sold, of which 12 million were in the U.S. He broke another record when his first holiday album, Miracles, sold over 13 million copies, making it the most successful Christmas album to date.
In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Using circular breathing, Kenny G held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds at J&R Music World in New York City. That same year, Kenny G's song "Havana", from his album The Moment, was remixed by noted DJs Todd Terry and Tony Moran and released promotionally to dance clubs in the U.S. These mixes went to No.1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart in April 1997.
Kenny G's 1999 single, "What A Wonderful World" was criticized in its overdubbing of Louis Armstrong's classic recording. The primary criticism is that a revered recording by an artist such as Armstrong, known especially for improvisation, should not be altered, especially by a musician whose range and depth of understanding of classic jazz was already in question. Some columnists counter the criticism by suggesting that Kenny G's recording would expose a wider audience to classic jazz, though the overall response to his recording tended to be extremely negative.
In February 2000, Kenny G was invited to the White House and performed for state governors and members of the Clinton Cabinet.
Kenny G has recorded some Chinese songs, such as "Jasmine Flower" (茉莉花) or "The Moon Represents My Heart" (月亮代表我的心). His music is noticeably popular in China. His recording "Going Home" is often played at closing time at public places or at the end of classes at schools. Mass transit systems in Tianjin and Shanghai play these songs when trains approach terminus stations.
As of 2003, Kenny G was named the 25th-highest selling artist in America by the RIAA, with 48 million albums sold in the USA as of July 31, 2006. In 1994, Kenny G won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Forever in Love.
In October 2009, Kenny G appeared with the band Weezer in an AOL promotion of their album Raditude by soloing during "I'm Your Daddy". Kenny G said he knew nothing of Weezer before the performance. Though some music critics thereby rejoined in the common criticism of his work, the unlikely combination was fairly well received by AOL's magazines Spinner.com and Popeater.com.
In February 2011 Kenny G and his music were featured in a Super Bowl XLV ad for Audi called "Release the Hounds." Kenny G later starred in a short film detailing his time as Head of Riot Suppression for the Luxury Prison.
Recently, he made an appearance in the music video for pop star Katy Perry's single Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) as Uncle Kenny. On the October 8, 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live, Kenny appeared with his soprano sax alongside alternative rock band Foster the People as they performed their song "Houdini."
Kenny G is also a radio personality and can be heard every morning alongside Sandy Kovach on WLOQ in Orlando, Florida.
Unconventional popularity in China:
Since 1989, Kenny G's recording, "Going Home" has become an unconventional mega-hit throughout China: It has become the unofficial national closing song for businesses such as food courts, outdoor markets, health clubs, shopping malls, train stations, etc., throughout the country. Many businesses begin piping the music over their loudspeakers shortly before closing at night. Television stations also play the song before ending their evening broadcasts at night. Many Chinese, when asked, say they associate the song with the need to finish their activity or business and go home (although they may not even know the name the song or its artist).
Kenny G plays the Selmer Mark VI Soprano, Alto and Tenor Saxophones. He has created his own line of saxophones called "Kenny G Saxophones".
Kenny G married Lyndie Benson-Gorelick in 1992, and the couple had two sons. In January 2012, Benson-Gorelick filed for legal separation. Kenny G filed for divorce in August 2012.
Kenny G lives in Malibu, California. He is an avid golfer and has a handicap of +0.6. He has participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament seven times as of 2007 and teamed with Phil Mickelson to share the AT&T pro-am title in 2001 with the team of Tiger Woods and Jerry Chang. In the Golf Digest rankings of Top 100 in Music, according to golf handicap indexes of major musicians, he was first in 2006 and second in 2008. He is a member at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California.
Kenny G is an aircraft pilot and has a De Havilland Beaver seaplane that he flies regularly. He was also an early investor in the Starbucks coffee house chain.