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March 2007

Kenny G
I’m in the Mood for Love: The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time
Arista Records

Kenny G is so polarizing that his name is often the first lazy writers jot down when lamenting smooth-jazz or music’s state in general. On the other hand, he’s the best-selling instrumentalist of all time and is essentially critic-proof. Look, you’ll either love his new CD—and you will if you’re a fan—or you’ll steer far away from the music and the album shots of Kenny barefoot, Kenny on the beach, Kenny’s crotch in close-up repose (he’s got jeans on) and Kenny’s sax on crumpled bedsheets.

For those still reading, saxophonist Kenny G has miserly released only two all-original CDs in the past 10 years. There have been holiday CDs, best-of collections and, in 2004, a duets album of pop songs. His latest is a sequel of sorts to 1999’s Classics in the Key of G, which put G’s circular breathing technique to million-dollar use on nuggets like “Desafinado” and “Body and Soul.” The best songs here are the ones with the most cobwebs, as they exhibit the saxophonist’s comfortableness with a light swing: “I’m in the Mood for Love,” “It Had to Be You,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” and a medley of “Fly Me to the Moon/You Make Me Feel So Young” with big-band flourishes. G injects his personality into these tunes.

But the problem—or perhaps the asset—is that by titling the CD as he has, G forces himself to craft sax lines that closely mirror the well-known vocal melodies of the tunes. In the case of Bread’s “If,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and newer “all-time” classics like James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” and Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” these instrumentals quickly morph into dentist-office fodder devoid of the distinctive lyrics of the originals.

Originally published in March 2007
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