One of the more iconic figures in modern day jazz came to Houston’s Arena Theater on November 15, 2008 to bring entertainment of a different color to the Space City. Considered by many to be the poster boy for smooth jazz ideology, saxophonist Kenny G has been at the forefront of the industry since recording his chart-topping album ‘Duotones’ in 1986. Following that success came ‘Silhouette in 1988,’ another notable release commanding considerable acclaim. Since then Kenny has recorded more than 25 albums and has toured consistently, playing to thousands of adoring fans. His stop in Houston, Texas came after the loss of Houston’s smooth jazz radio station KHJZ 95.7 "The Wave," which provided a broad based platform for his music. In addition, jazz as a viable entertainment alternative has not always been at the top of the city’s must haves in terms of demand.
But regardless of any perceptionalized views about jazz not being a viable mode of entertainment, Kenny G’s concerts are usually well received and viewed in a favorable light. If there is a problem, getting the word out to jazz connoisseurs and aficionados is extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the audience at The Arena was well prepared to receive Kenny with an enthused level of anticipation. Houstonian Althea René was the opening act during the concert, which also provided a flavorful addition to the performance. Also appearing with Ms. René was keyboardist Gail Johnson, her skills as a jazz artist are also highly regarded; in her own right, Gail is a fantastic musician. Not only is Althea a local favorite, she is in great demand on the national and international smooth jazz scene as well. Having performed on any number of cruises, concert and festival stages, anyone who has experienced her music leave her shows with a renewed sense of appreciation for the flute. Once upon and era, Yusef Lateef, Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann and Bobbie Humphrey dazzled audiences with their brand of musical menus, but the time for a new generation of flutists has been long in coming. The essence of who came before her has influenced Althea throughout her career; however, make no mistake about her irrevocable talent, she has an individualized style that is not only unique, it demands recognition. Look for Althea René as a recognized force who will help shape the future of contemporary jazz.
As stated earlier, Kenny G is one of the most recognized names in jazz. Highly appreciated and respected, his adoring fans have a great deal of affection for his music in spite of the perceived lack of jazz support. The Houston audience proved beyond the shadow of any doubt that he is possibly their all-time favorite. Although Kenny’s recordings are classified as smooth jazz pop radio standards, his concert provided an overview of musical prowess spanning 35 years as an artist; which incidentally, dates back to 1973 as member of Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. Back then, his mastery of the saxophone were very apparent and even the maestro himself was impressed. That stint along with time spent as a member Jeff Lorber’s band left an indelible mark on Kenny, which has since manifested itself in a variety of ways as a classical, popular, rock and smooth jazz musician. During his two-hour plus performance, he did in fact traverse the jazz fantastic with a repertoire of music that engulfed the audience with giddy excitement. By night’s end, Kenny G proved he continues to maintain a high-profile presence as one of Houston’s favorite artists, but continues to stand as smooth jazz’s most successful and enduring smooth jazz icons.