Pat Metheny smacks down Kenny G

I wonder why NME, in its review of XTC’s Apple Venus Vol. 1, decided to blame the band’s seven years between releases on laziness rather than conflicts with their record label. Hmm.

A tidbit stolen from josh blog: Pat Metheny rips Kenny G. Read the whole article, it’s… fascinating. For those of you too impatient for that, I chose two excerpts. The first paragraph is candy for Kenny-haters, and the second is, well… read on (it refers to Kenny G’s dubbing himself into a Louis Armstrong piece). Please note that Metheny refers to his viewpoint in the first paragraph as “benign”. Ouch.

kenny g is not a musician i really had much of an opinion about at all until recently. there was not much about the way he played that interested me one way or the other either live or on records. i first heard him a number of years ago playing as a sideman with jeff lorber when they opened a concert for my band. my impression was that he was someone who had spent a fair amount of time listening to the more pop oriented sax players of that time, like grover washington or david sanborn, but was not really an advanced player, even in that style. he had major rhythmic problems and his harmonic and melodic vocabulary was extremely limited, mostly to pentatonic based and blues-lick derived patterns, and he basically exhibited only a rudimentary understanding of how to function as a professional soloist in an ensemble - lorber was basically playing him off the bandstand in terms of actual music. but he did show a knack for connecting to the basest impulses of the large crowd by deploying his two or three most effective licks (holding long notes and playing fast runs - never mind that there were lots of harmonic clams in them) at the keys moments to elicit a powerful crowd reaction (over and over again) . the other main thing i noticed was that he also, as he does to this day, play horribly out of tune - consistently sharp.

…when kenny g decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great louis’s tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that i would not have imagined possible. he, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that louis armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. by disrespecting louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, kenny g has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. we ignore this, “let it slide”, at our own peril.

There are many albums I own that I haven’t reviewed. In many cases I just haven’t gotten around to it. But in some cases I just don’t feel comfortable reviewing them because I don’t feel I have a good handle on them (a la Bob’s feelings about In Praise of Learning). I always feel like, if I don’t like a particular album, it just means I’m missing something, so I refrain from reviewing it. It seems like a cop-out to say “this album hasn’t made an impression on me” and judge it based on that kind of non-opinion. But, when an album doesn’t make an impression on me after repeated listenings, I have less incentive to go back and keep trying, so nothing gets done. Isildurs Bane albums (particularly MIND Volume 1), Cast albums (though I did write a sort-of cop-out review of Beyond Reality), and most neo albums have this effect on me.

On the other hand, there are those albums that I shelve for a while after numerous futile listens, then come back to and think, “A ha!” A few King Crimson albums are like this. Same with Henry Cow, Miles Davis, Banco, Deus ex Machina… you get the idea.

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