By John Benson
Being an animal lover himself, Kenny G said he’s thrilled to be involved with a benefit show for the Animal Welfare League of Mahoning County.
The smooth-jazz saxophonist brings his holiday show to Youngstown on Monday for a gig at Covelli Centre.
“I’m happy to come and play, and if it benefits other organizations, then that’s a plus,” said Kenny G, (real name Kenneth Gorelick), calling from Los Angeles. “I have a couple of dogs, so that’s fantastic.”
In fact, Kenny G said that his dogs have played a role in his musical career, which includes global sales of more than 75 million albums. Apparently, long before his management or record label gets a taste of his new music, his pooches act as a barometer of sorts.
“The funny thing about a dog is sometimes a certain note will trigger them to start howling,” Kenny G said. “It can be a different note for a different dog. I’d hit this one note, and a dog I used to have would just start howling. If I were just a little off, it wouldn’t make a difference.”
Whether it be playing in key or creating music, being off is something Kenny G has rarely done in the quarter of a century that has passed since his breakout single “Songbird.” The ubiquitous song, which hit No. 4 on the charts, made his 1986 album “Duotones” a multiplatinum hit.
In looking back, Kenny G said it was almost as if a light turned on to his music. One day he’s playing shows in front of 200 people, and the next he’s filling 5,000-seat theaters.
“As I look back, it’s a completely spectacular time period that you don’t know if anything like that will happen again,” Kenny G said.
Though recently his music didn’t enjoy the same level of commercial success, Kenny G found himself back in the spotlight in 2011 when he not only appeared in the Katy Perry video for “Last Friday Night [T.G.I.F.],” but also played with Foster the People on “Saturday Night Live” and made a surprise hilarious cameo in a Super Bowl car commercial.
“That was a good year, and I will tell you, in 2013 there’s going to be a national commercial,” said Kenny G. “I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but it’ll be super funny and very surprising.”
As for his touring holiday show, there are very few surprises with the program, consisting of his normal repertoire with seasonal music sprinkled in for good measure. Some of that material will come from Kenny G’s massively successful 1994 Christmas album, “Miracles: The Holiday Album,” which has sold more than 8 million copies.
“I’m trying to get my friend David Foster to do a new Christmas record with me,” Kenny G said. “He just did Rod Stewart’s album. I’m asking David for next year to see if we can beat the one I did in 1994. That’s still got the record for most albums sold from a Christmas record.”
Invariably, Kenny G is hoping his reputation precedes him regarding his upcoming Christmas show.
“Hopefully, they’ve seen us play before,” Kenny G said.
Considering it is an animal benefit, in case there are any dogs in the audience, will he be sure to not play those certain notes that result in howling?
“I’ll stay away from the real low ones and real high ones,” Kenny G said, laughing. “I’ll just stay in the middle.”
After a brief pause, he quipped, “That’s hilarious.”