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Kenny G: Rhythm & Romance

It seems only right that a Kenny G CD would wind up in Starbucks coffee stores, as the Seattle native, now living on the beach in L.A., had the insight to snap up stock when the coffee giant offered its IPO. This CD, his first after breaking away from Clive Davis and Arista, is pure Kenny G, all the way. It’s marketed as a project of Latin love songs, and the fire and passion you’d expect from that is here, but as always it’s the G-way or the highway. As one of the song titles says-you don’t know if he’s being tongue-in-cheek or oblivious-it’s “Salsa Kenny.” The saxophonist surrounds himself with first-rate Latin musicians Alex Acuña, Ramon Stagnaro, John Pena, Michito Sanchez, Enrique Martinez and Paulinho da Costa. These guys can work up a sweat, but they’re tuned down to fit G’s laidback style.

On “Sax-O-Loco,” the saxophonist puts his skills on display, scrimping on an appealing hook that might have been repeated more readily during the Arista days. “Peruvian Nights” jumps and jives with energy, and “Fiesta Loca” is a giddy groove riding over a simple three-chord guitar strum. Continuing on the upbeat tip, “Brasilia” captures the passion G puts into his live shows and is one of the best songs of his long career. The “romance” comes in bunches, best displayed on the title track and the standard “Sabor a Mi,” although the latter, most memorably covered by Luis Miguel and Los Lobos, would have packed more punch with vocals. G does call on Chilean vocalist Barbra Munoz for “Mirame Bailar,” and an uplifting, Ricky Martin-style groove is the payoff. And the three-man Mexican group Camila makes a case for its appealing pop magic on “Es Hora de Decir.” Look, Pat Metheny won’t be buying this CD anytime soon. But for un poco pop-jazz with a little sway, Rhythm & Romance will make a nice accompaniment to an extra-foam latte.

Originally Published