If there was a bad note played during Kenny G’s final performance of a five day year-end mini-residency at Blue Note Napa, I didn’t hear it. That night, the legendary sax man did what you would expect a legend to do: he played the hell out of that horn.
Very technically, he played the hell out of those horns. I know he played at least two of them, a soprano — his original from high school — and a tenor sax. I don’t pretend to know the details behind the instruments, but I know what they’re supposed to sound like.
So does Kenny G. And he showed all of us what they’re supposed to sound like Tuesday night.
Very honestly, “he played the hell out of that horn” is a sanitized version of the four words that kept going through my head throughout that show. You wanna hear what I really thought? OK, since you asked:
That Negro can blow.
Yes, I know he’s a skinny Jew. But close your eyes while you’re listening to him play and I swear to Black Jesus you wouldn’t know that.
The 63-year old Kenny G repeatedly reminded fans of why he is the best selling instrumental artist of all time, via faithful live versions of radio smashes like “Songbird,” “Forever In Love,” “Silhouette,” and “Going Home,” stunning covers like “My Heart Will Go On” and “Pick Up The Pieces,” and underrated funk workouts like his original “G-Bop” from his multiplatinum 1992 Breathless album. If you’ve not heard “G-Bop” live, you’ve not heard it.
The night’s first surprise came at 10:19pm, when Kenny G took the stage 11 minutes early. I have been attending music concerts since 1983, and until New Year’s Eve I had never attended one — of any genre — that started early. I guess that’s one of the things that happens when white folks play jazz.
But the artist and his band were ready, and God knows his fans were ready to hear them, literally, play the night away during a show that wrapped up at the stroke of midnight with “Auld Lang Syne” from Kenny’s 1999 Faith album.
That final song reduced the woman seated next to me to tears. She literally wept as we rang in the new year.
Blue Note Napa is one of my all-time favorite performance venues, and as tight as Kenny G’s albums are, his music takes on a whole new dimension live. Hopefully, he’ll be back in northern California in 2020 for another show.
And if — when — Kenny G does come back, this Negro will be there.
Connect with Kenny G at KennyG.com
Check out all that Blue Note Napa has to offer at bluenotenapa.com.