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Kenny G

A phenomenally successful instrumentalist whose recordings routinely made the pop, R&B, and jazz charts during the 1980s and ’90s, Kenny G‘s sound became a staple on adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio stations. He’s a fine player with an attractive sound (influenced a bit by Grover Washington, Jr.) who often caresses melodies, putting a lot of emotion into his solos. Because he does not improvise much (sticking mostly to predictable melody statements), his music largely falls outside of jazz. However, because he is listed at the top of “contemporary jazz” charts and is identified with jazz in the minds of the mass public, he is classified as jazz. Since the early ‘80s, his combination of unparalleled instrumental chops and indelible melodies has resulted in sales of more than 75 million records worldwide (45 million in the U.S. alone) and more than a dozen climbs to the top of Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart.

Given these and other commercial and critical achievements, one might think Kenny is an artist with nothing to prove but he reaffirms his enduring place in popular music every time he takes the stage.