LISTENING TO KENNY G
In a propulsive and surprisingly insightful documentary, Filmmaker Penny Lane takes a look at one of the most successful yet widely mocked musicians in recent memory: easy-listening saxophonist Kenny G.
In his early-90s heyday, Kenny G was an unlikely phenomenon, a ringleted superstar who sold millions of albums and regularly sent his syrupy instrumental tracks to the upper echelons of the Hot 100. That success brought criticism, though, with many viewing the musician as the poster boy for watered-down, mall-appropriate jazz. Documentarian Penny Lane attempts to detangle the essence of Kenny G and his aura. She tracks his path from inauspicious, middle-class origins to worldwide success under the guidance of record mogul Clive Davis. She speaks to jazz experts, who eloquently but forcefully parse Kenny G’s alleged shortcomings as both a musician and perceived appropriator of Black musical culture. And she hears from the man himself, who is candid, self-aware, and full of surprising observations on his craft and public perception. Neither a takedown nor an attempt to convert Kenny G haters, Lane’s film is a multifaceted conversation that goes way beyond the titular musician himself. It’s a thoughtful meditation on the way we appreciate music and the slippery nature of taste.
In Competition: Documentary Feature
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