What a sad and pathetic week it is in this week’s Jam Of The Week (JOTW).
For those of you who don’t know, JOTW is a Facebook group for musicians to post videos of themselves playing or improvising over a song, based on a weekly theme. The weekly theme could be a specific tune, or a self-chosen song from a specific artiste/composer. Of course, it’s a very jazz-centric group, so the themes are always usually from the jazz genre. Once the weekly topic is posted, you’d find hundreds of videos uploaded onto that group thread, musicians of various instruments blowing over one (sometimes, two) choruses of that particular tune. The mission statement of the group is noble: to open up a network of musicians to connect with one another through a common language – jazz – and get inspired by one another.
So, this week, the founder of the site, Farrell Newton, decided to really put out the challenge of doing the music one particular artiste jazz musicians love to hate – KENNY G!
Now, what is sad is not the fact that the topic was Kenny G. It was the fact that not many of them rose up to the challenge, overcoming their prejudice. In addition, there was a lot of hate comments going around and badly done joke videos, dissing Kenny’s music AND his playing. It really shows you the degree of musicality they really have in them. Instead of finding a musical way to interpret his songs, they choose to throw in the gauntlet, and go the easy way out by belittling the subject in point.
A lot of these folks on JOTW can blow thru choruses after choruses of Giant Steps and Rhythm Changes, play complex meters and harmony. But ask them to play a simple and effective melody with feeling, and I can almost say for a fact that the same detractors will fall flat on their face. It’s just pathetic. They can’t play it, so they diss it and apply prejudice on it. So typical. Kind of like American politics right now. Democracy, right? It’s only good if it works in your favor? What if it doesn’t?
Say what they want, Kenny is still one of the most successful saxophone artiste on the planet. And, whether they choose the accept it or not, Kenny is more than just a decent saxophonist. He is actually a really good saxophonist. Sure, he may not be as revolutionary or innovative like our saxophone legends of jazz like Coltrane or Bird, but his mere presence in the music world has certainly opened a window for many to be able to peek into the realm of jazz saxophone.
Now, I’m not saying this to convince people to like and dig Kenny G. If you like it, and it appeals to you, then please don’t let other people tell you otherwise. Everyone has their freedom to like whatever they like. Some may disagree with you, and that’s ok too. But unless you can do what Kenny does and be so successful at it, no one really has the right to diss him. You don’t have to like his music, but you don’t need to diss it, especially if you can’t even do a decent or better version of it.
And here’s the awesome reality of it: Kenny is hugely successful, as a music artiste and also as a business entity. He’s flying planes, playing golf, touring all over the world, getting paid handsome royalties for his songs, like “Going Home” (a song played every evening after work hours in China), selling his music and all his merchandise, just being famous and recognized for his work. What are these judgemental JOTW folks doing? Still trying their best to be heard and seen playing lots of “finger music” for other MUSICIANS who are equally on the same dead end boat. Does the wider audience care if you can play fast and loads of notes?
Not a damn bit.
Now, jam that into your heads and think about that.
PS: Despite my rant, I would, however, like to applaud and credit JOTW founder, Farrell Newton, for giving an online platform for players from all walks of life to show their skills and a way to connect with one another.