Life in the key of G

Being Kenny G at Schuster

By Tim Smith

Saxophonist Kenny G has been entertaining music lovers since he began as a sideman with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973. He has earned legions of fans around the globe with bestselling albums, from Kenny G in 1982 to his latest, the 2015 release Brazilian Nights. He will be appearing with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra at the Schuster Center on April 8 and 9.

According to the multi-faceted Mr. G, the influence and inspiration for Brazilian Nights was born out of personal preference.

“I’ve been listening to Stan Getz’s Getz for Lovers, Cannonball Adderley’s Bossa Nova songs. And I’ve always loved Bossa Nova, so I decided to record a record of my own,” he says.

Though, of the 18 albums he’s released, he has a personal favorite: “Breathless is the one. I played most of the instruments on the CD and wrote a lot of the songs alone, so it has a lot of my personal vibe on it.”

He has collaborated with artists representing every spectrum of pop music, from George Benson and Aretha Franklin to Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra. He confesses that there is one item that’s still on his wish list: “I want to do a film score, so I would love to collaborate with some of the film score guys in L.A. and do a killer soundtrack.”

After his stint with Barry White, Kenny G played with the funk band Cold, Bold and Together, followed by the Jeff Lorber Fusion. Lorber helped the young saxophonist launch his solo recording career. G’s albums are noticeably popular in China as well as the United States.

Along with his numerous awards, he is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone—an E-flat held for 45 minutes and 47 seconds, achieved through the technique of circular breathing.

“I’ve done circular breathing forever and did a demo of it on the Regis show,” he says. “The Guinness guy was there and said I should try to set a world record.”

He notes that while audiences are receptive to new works, they usually have a pre-conceived idea of what they expect to hear.

“I believe they want familiar sounds, but we add a new one here and there,” he says. “Mostly it’s music that they are familiar with.”

In spite of an active performing schedule, Mr. G finds time to pursue his passion for golf, maintaining a 0.4 handicap. He has played in several tournaments alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. And little known fact: He’s a licensed pilot.

“I fly an amphibious plane called a DeHavilland Beaver. And every summer, I fly it across the USA from L.A. to the East Coast,” G says. “It takes four days, and it’s the ultimate road trip.”

Angela Whitehead of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance says the process of selecting guest artists is a combination of popularity, compatibility, availability and cost.

“Some artists are out of the question to present in a 2,200-seat hall if ticket prices are to be kept at a reasonable level,” she says. “Another big factor is do they have orchestral arrangements or ‘charts,’ as they are called, so that the orchestra can be part of the performance?  Not every artist does.”

They work far in advance to arrange a well-balanced program for the audience. “We keep a constantly changing list of possibilities,” she says. “We do our actual booking—meaning the actual extension of an offer to an artist—one to two years in advance.”

Then comes rehearsal time with the orchestra, which can be at a premium, depending on the type of music being presented.

“For classical concerts, they typically have a run-through with the conductor, then two rehearsals with the orchestra.  For pops and rock, it’s usually just one rehearsal with the orchestra—sometimes two, but more often just one. Our musicians are professionals and as such do almost all of their preparation in advance of rehearsal, so that when guest artists arrive, a relatively few minor issues need to be addressed and then everyone is ready for a live performance.”

Whitehead feels Kenny G’s appearance will be a memorable experience for concertgoers.

“Really, the program for this one is entirely set by Kenny G. His shows have a fantastic reputation, audiences love him and that’s what we’re expecting to see in Dayton.”

Kenny G concurs, adding, “They can expect great musicianship from all the guys in my band, the orchestra, etc. And yes, they will be surprised during my show with some things that are unexpected, but I can’t say now or it won’t be a surprise.”

An Evening with Kenny G will be presented at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. in Dayton. For tickets or more information, please call 888.228.3630 or visit or

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at  

Tags: , ,

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Got an Opinion?


We are interested to hear what you think.  Please send us a message. [contact-form 4 “Opinion”]  

No Jet Engines Here


The very first thing is to learn how to pronounce it. No rhyming with the home of Baylor University in […]

Debate 9/11: Let’s Make Tammany Hall Great Again

cartoon cmyk

Third Parties have long complained that having the two major parties in charge of the election process gives Republicans and […]



No music and arts festival would truly be complete without… wrestling, right? Well, this year at Ladyfest Dayton, buckle down […]

Lives-in-progress, demo-style


Right from the start of this Jesse Peretz adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel Juliet, Naked, there’s something warm and unfinished […]

Are ‘Friends” Electric?


Gary Numan’s Savage return to form at CVG’s Bogart’s Gary Numan with daughter Persia, who sings on the new single […]