7 Things You Didn’t Know About Kenny G Who is Playing Smooth Jazz in Waikīkī

The jazz saxophonist performs at the Blue Note Hawai‘i this week.
Photos: Kurt Stevens


To welcome Honolulu’s newest nightclub, the Blue Note Hawai‘i at the Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort, what better way to guarantee a grand opening than to bring in the King of Smooth, the Man with the Groove, the one and only Kenny G?


The lanky, long-haired alto player from Seattle took the contemporary jazz scene by storm in the 1980s, hewing to the “sex and sax” style of Grover Washington Jr., Kenny G’s idol even as a 10-year-old with his first horn. Signed by legend Clive Davis, he went platinum with his second album; after 23 albums and 75 million sales worldwide, he’s claimed a Grammy Award, the top-selling instrumental album ever, and more than a dozen trips to the top of the charts. 


But that’s not all. While it’s said that no one is immune to his groove, here are seven other reasons to hear for yourself why the G-man just might hit the spot. Be careful who you take as your date, though; his famous E-flat is known to bring lovers to their knees with pre-Valentine proposals:


7. Kenny G is a god of love with a degree in tenderness. At the tremulous age of 17, he was blowing his Selmer as a sideman in Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. If you remember White’s “You’re the First the Last, My Everything,” you’ll know why some argue that he could have retired right then and there, reputation secure.


6. Kenny G is a god of love, etc., with a degree in accounting. He studied at the University of Washington while gigging on the side with fusion band Cold, Bold and Together, and still graduated magna cum laude. He’s guided his own career, including taking some notable gambles that have paid off handsomely (kind of like Mick Jagger, who attended the London School of Economics).



5. Kenny G was an early investor in Starbucks. His own publicity makes a point of mentioning this. What were you doing in 1992?


4. Kenny G will literally leave you breathless. It’s not your imagination, girls—he really does hold that heart-stopping note for what seems like forever. A practitioner of circular breathing made famous by avant-garde deity Pharoah Sanders, Kenny G made the Guinness Book of Records in 1997 for keeping up an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds. Losing the record in 2000, he announced in 2015 that he would hold a note for the length of an entire plane flight if sponsorship could be arranged. Come on, Hawaiian—give him the nonstop New York to Honolulu leg!


3. Kenny G does have a last name. It is Gorelick. You gotta love a guy who’s become a god of love with a degree in tenderness who started out as Kenny Gorelick, future accountant.


2. Kenny G can really swing. A club, that is. He’s a scratch golfer who was rated by Golf Digest as the No. 5 golfing musician in the world in 2014. He’s won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which is the top professional-amateur event in all of sports, partnered with Phil Mickelson.


1. Unless you do your shopping in China, you might not know this about Kenny G: All over China, his song “Going Home” is played in stores, markets, offices and other places at closing time. It is ubiquitous, subconscious, pervasive. And while this makes Kenny G a very popular man with a huge market in China, it didn’t stop him from visiting the site of the 2014 Hong Kong protests and tweeting his hopes for “a peaceful and positive resolution.” Hold that note, Kenny.


Blue Note Hawai‘i,  2335 Kalākaua Ave. at the Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort. Kenny G performs tonight, Jan. 14, through Jan. 17, with shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m.; premium tables $85, loge tables $65; tickets at bluenotehawaii.com, or 777-4890.