The international saxophone sensation talks about his new album of lullabies.
Upon hearing about the legendary Kenny G’s plans to release an album of lullabies, my first thought was that it might be entitled Redundant.
I always thought that the saxophone player has been calming us, while lulling some of us to sleep since his 1986 breakthrough Duotones album. His records have always been among the ones I haul out when I need to chill out.
As it turns out, Kenny G thought so, too.
“People are already falling asleep when they’re listening to me,” Kenny joked backstage before a recent sold out concert in northern California, responding to my question about whether he’d planned to play anything from the new album. “If I played lullabies…they’d be dead to the world.”
Contrary to that notion, Kenny G’s decided to move forward with the project, as he’d been thinking about doing a lullaby album for a while, he told me. Thankfully, he settled on a much more appropriate title, Innocence.
But the new album isn’t his first attempt to help us catch some z’s. He included a gorgeous version of “Brahms Lullaby” on his first Christmas album, Miracles: The Holiday Album, almost 30 years ago.
But a whole album of lullabies? I had to ask the legend what led him to that.
“I don’t look at lullabies as children songs. I look at them as beautiful melodies that have withstood the test of time,” Kenny G EXCLUSIVELY said. “And the challenge for me was to figure out how to play these melodies in a way that will also stand up to the test of time.”
“So I tried to come up with very beautiful and classy arrangements that make each song something that everyone can connect with, at any age. I feel like we accomplished this!”
Like the best of his prior albums, Kenny G has seamlessly paired melodies we know and love with new compositions on Innocence. He’s recorded stunningly beautiful versions of “Edelweiss” (from The Sound Of Music) and “Over The Rainbow” (from The Wizard Of Oz) on the new project, along with a slew of new compositions.
The resulting album is, simply, gorgeous, and can be played on loop for hours. I did just that for most of last weekend, and I had one of the most restful weekends that I’ve had in months.
As I listened to Kenny G’s Innocence, I wondered how the Seattle Public School alumnus wrote songs that could stand up to standards. Oh, he’s done it before: he included an original on the aforementioned Miracles, and it became the best selling Christmas album of all time, and the annual soundtrack to the Coleman family’s Christmas tree trimming party.
But listen to his new “A Mother’s Lullaby” or “Lullaby Tres” and you’ll know what I mean. I teared up as I listened to the former track for the first time, thinking of Grandma Coleman and her love for me.
Kenny G, how’d you do that??
“I tried to [compose songs] in the same spirit of the lullabies that we are familiar with,” Kenny said. “The challenge here was to come up with melodies that qualify as a lullaby. And how do you do that? I just let my instincts and heart guide me through the process of making melodies that felt like they could be lullabies. They had to be very simple but yet immediately feel like a melody that’s been around forever. I’m very proud of the original compositions for this record.”
Before I let Kenny go — the man had to take the stage for a standing-room-only audience — I asked him how he choose the classic lullabies for his new Innocence.
“I had to choose the ones that would sound just right on my saxophone with the range that I have,” Kenny G said. “So some melodies just didn’t work because of the notes that were required to be played. I experimented with lots of songs, and found the ones that suited my style and the range of my saxophone.”
To paraphrase one of the most popular commercial jingles from my youth, you deserve a break today, so get up and pre-order Kenny G’s soothing new Innocence.
Kenny G’s new Innocence will be available at retail and all major digital platforms on December 1.
Catch up with Kenny G, and find out where in the world he’s playing next, at KennyG.com.
Catch up with freelance writer, podcaster, and live event host Michael P Coleman at MichaelPColeman.com.