How the saxophone lead the way in David Lynch’s tribute to Kenny G

If you’ve ever seen some of Kenny G’s concerts, you know him for the saxophone he always plays in dramatic ways, never without the accompaniment of a visual sign-off. As the saxophone morphs from a general to distinctly vertical sound, Kenny G is indistinguishable as the concert goes on — he can still be heard but as the performance fizzles, his sax takes on a feature of its own. The visuals in “Life Tastes Sweet,” the new documentary from David Lynch and Mark Romanek, turn this into an object of concern, warning us about turning away from the music of Kenny G, through contrasts. This year, David Lynch sent a photo of Kenny G (then known by his stage name, Benny Giugliano) wandering the green lawn at Burning Man with a shocked look on his face — better then or worse than that, the audience might wonder, in the so-called “murder of the instrument.” Or in Lynch’s words, “Kenny G has been pushed to the brink, and with his body twisted, pulled and turned in circles to meet a deadly elemental form.”

Critic Molly Knight sums up the pros and cons of both the maturity and inexperience that signify Kenny G’s current musicalism: “The key to the lyrical quality of his falsetto saxophone playing is the starkness of his delivery, the mechanical quality of his phrasing. … In other words, once the bass lines start, there is no turning back.” Certainly he is that for music critics at least, whose criticisms for Kenny G have been appearing in the press lately. “One of the core modes in his tenor is the suspensive, taut waft of a mad lib,” said New York Magazine’s Brian Moylan in an ongoing rave from last year. “He should never try anything smooth,” concurred Tom Plume of the New York Times. The BBC was moved to describe Kenny G as “rather like a nervous hissing volcano,” while Alternative Press’s interview seemed more concerned with the saxophone than the singer. The Boston Globe’s Vincent Amato wrote of Kenny G, “There was no melting of his throat or bath of the soundbox behind him during a magical bit of 40th anniversary touring that, year after year, seems to push him at ever greater and more obdurate limits, pushing back against the limitations of music itself.”

If Kenny G suddenly closed his eyes and listened to the harsh sounds and shapes of the saxophone, would he surrender it all? This was the question that David Lynch was really asking with “Life Tastes Sweet,” but I think we already know the answer. “Kenny G is not my hero,” writer Sandro Galei wrote in the New York Times on the occasion of Kenny G’s golden anniversary, but the film is proof that “for thirty-five years he has been my saviour.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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