CD Review of Rhythm & Romance by Kenny G
Recommended if you like
Dave Koz, John Tesh, Bob James
Kenny G:
Rhythm & Romance

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


efore we begin, let’s get one thing out of the way: Kenny G does not need your approval. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. The erstwhile Kenneth Gorelick’s music may not be “jazz,” as his critics have consistently (and, it must be said, correctly) pointed out – but hey, fuck it, jazz artists die poor, and by squatting over the wide middle ground between Grover Washington, Jr. and a picnic in hell, Kenny has ensured that not only will he die a rich man, but his great-grandchildren will probably never have to do anything more strenuous than add up “Songbird” residuals. You got a problem with that? Well, maybe you should have learned to play the same goddamn note on an alto saxophone for 15 minutes.

Anyway, here’s Rhythm & Romance, Kenny’s first album of all-new material since…well, it’s presumably been awhile, given that he must have to wade through six or seven rooms full of money to get to his recording studio, and anyway, who can keep coming up with vaguely exotic song titles like “Seaside Jam” or “Champagne” every couple of years? It’s got to be exhausting. And speaking of vaguely exotic – not to mention exhausting – well, here’s Rhythm & Romance. Billed as Kenny’s first foray into “Latin romance music,” the album serves up a dozen tracks with a light “Latin” flavor – emphasis on the light. The overall effect is similar to Ottmar Leibert humping a drum machine.

Well, actually, that isn’t entirely fair. Though the album was produced by Kenny’s longtime co-conspirator Walter Afanasieff, a man who never met a drum machine he couldn’t wring a Michael Bolton song out of, the majority of the tracks feature live rhythm sections – and what rhythm sections they are: Alex Acuña of Weather Report and ‘80s percussionist extraordinaire Paulinho da Costa are just two of the pricey names that pop up in the liner notes. It’s sort of ironic, then, that Kenny’s playing is just as rigidly smooth as it’s ever been; though the songs have titles like “Sax-O-Loco” and “Fiesta Loca,” his solos could have been flown in from any of his earlier albums. (Hell, maybe they were. It would actually make Rhythm & Romance more interesting, come to think of it.)

The problem with this album is the same one that’s plagued all of Kenny G’s releases: You can tell there’s actual talent involved here, but when it’s being pissed away on music this boring, who cares? Jim Davis could have Rembrandt’s talent, but because he’s spent the last few decades drawing “Garfield” cartoons, he’s still a hack. Just like Kenny G.

Of course, both Jim Davis and Kenny G could buy and sell all of us put together. Didn’t your mother ever tell you the world isn’t fair? Well, she was right. (Ironically, your mother probably owns at least one of Kenny’s records.) Let’s just give Rhythm & Romance one star for musicianship, half a star for its tiny modicum of creativity, and never, ever speak of it again.

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