Kenneth Bruce Gorelick (born June 5, 1956), better known by his stage name, Kenny G is an American saxophonist. His fourth album, Duotones, brought him breakthrough success in 1986. Kenny G is the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era and one of the best-selling artists of all time, with global sales totaling more than 75 million records.
Kenny G was born in Seattle, Washington, to Jewish parents (his mother was originally from Saskatchewan, Canada) and grew up in the city’s Seward Park neighborhood, which is a center of the city’s Jewish community. He came into contact with a saxophone when he heard someone performing with one on The Ed Sullivan Show. He started playing the saxophone in 1966 when he was 10 years old. He learned how to play under the direction of local trumpeter Gerald Pfister and by practicing along with records (mostly of Grover Washington, Jr.), trying to emulate the sounds that he was hearing. His first saxophone was a Buffet Crampon alto.
Kenny G attended Whitworth Elementary School, Sharples Junior High School, Franklin High School, and the University of Washington, all in his home town of Seattle. When he entered high school, he failed on his first try to get into the jazz band, but tried again the following year and earned first chair. His Franklin High School classmate Robert Damper (piano, keyboards) plays in his band.In addition to his studies while in high school, he took private lessons on the saxophone and clarinet from Johnny Jessen, once a week for a year.
He was also on his high school golf team. He had loved the sport ever since his older brother, Brian Gorelick, introduced it to him when he was ten years old, which is the same age he was when he started playing the saxophone.
Kenny G’s career started with a job as a sideman for Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973 while 17 and still in high school. He continued to play professionally while studying for a major in accounting at the University of Washington in Seattle and graduated magna cum laude. He played with the funk band Cold, Bold and Together before becoming a credited member of The Jeff Lorber Fusion. He began his solo career after his period with Lorber.
Kenny G signed with Arista Records as a solo artist in 1982, after label president Clive Davis heard his rendition of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. He has released many solo albums and collaborated with various artists including Andrea Bocelli, Whitney Houston, Peabo Bryson, Aaron Neville, Toni Braxton, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Natalie Cole, Steve Miller, Weezer, Dudley Moore, Lee Ritenour, The Rippingtons, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Bebel Gilberto, George Benson, Chante Moore and Aretha Franklin. Influenced by the likes of saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., his own albums are usually classified as smooth jazz.
He received success quite early on, with both G Force and Gravity, his second and third studio albums respectively, achieving platinum status in the United States. These sales were topped by his fourth studio album, Duotones, which sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. His sixth studio album, Breathless, became the number one best selling instrumental album ever, with over 15 million copies sold, of which 12 million were in the U.S. He broke another record when his first holiday album, Miracles, sold over 13 million copies, making it the most successful Christmas album to date.
In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Using circular breathing, Kenny G held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds at J&R Music World in New York City.That same year, Kenny G’s song “Havana”, from his album The Moment, was remixed by noted DJs Todd Terry and Tony Moran and released promotionally to dance clubs in the U.S. These mixes went to No.1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart in April 1997.