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Originally published Friday, April 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM

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Concert review

Seattle-bred sax star Kenny G wows crowd in Jazz Alley debut

Kenny G, the megastar saxophonist who grew up in Seattle and went on to become the most famous exponent of smooth jazz, made his debut at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley Thursday night to an adoring crowd. The saxophonist plays through Sunday, April 29.

Special to The Seattle Times

Additional performances

Kenny G

7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $20.50 (206-441-9729 or www.jazzalley.com).
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Good for Kenny and fans! Note to NPR - It's still NOT Okay to add Kenny G to your jazz... MORE
Never thought I'd see Kenny G and "wow" in the same sentence MORE
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Concert review |

Say what you will about Kenny G and his smoother-than-smooth jazz.

He has a way with fans.

Kicking off the first of eight shows this week at Jazz Alley with a 7:30 performance Thursday night, the Seattle-bred saxophonist (currently living in Malibu, Calif.), strolled through the crowd while holding a single note on his beloved Selmer soprano sax for a full two minutes.

The trademark routine fell short of his 1977 Guinness world record for the longest saxophone note (45 minutes and 47 seconds), but fans loved it just the same, applauding loudly. He later demonstrated the circular breathing technique that makes it possible, humorously describing himself as a human bagpipe.

Dressed in a crisp gray suit, the affable, pencil-thin musician with the dark, curly hair was clearly thrilled to be playing his first show at the Sixth Avenue nightclub in front of a hometown crowd, despite a stratospheric career and sales of more than 75 million albums.

"I guess I wasn't good enough to play here before ... but I've been practicing," he quipped.

Kenny G, who began his career in the early '70s as Kenny Gorelick while still attending Franklin High School, said he had been inspired to try the saxophone as a boy after hearing one on "The Ed Sullivan Show." He then introduced one of his new Kenny G soprano saxophones, offering to sell it to anyone in the house and give the proceeds to the Jazz Alley serving staff.

Backing Kenny G was his very capable longtime band: Daniel Bejarano (drums); Vail Johnson (bass); John Raymond (guitar); and fellow Franklin High alumnus Robert Damper (piano, keyboards), with whom Kenny G had played at a White House dinner for President Clinton.

The sax man opened his 90-minute set with the soaring "Silhouette," followed by such sumptuous songs as a Latin-flavored "Havana," the wistful "Innocence" and his romantic megahit, "Songbird."

In a nod to the jazz greats who had inspired him, the pop-jazz star performed crowd-pleasing versions of "Desafinado," the Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova classic made famous by Stan Getz, and John Coltrane's four-chord masterpiece, "Equinox," after teasing the audience about his jazz knowledge.

Kenny G (whose 1994 "Miracles: The Holiday Album" sold more than 8 million copies) also surprised concertgoers with a Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," featuring a unique arrangement.

The sax star filled space between songs with good-natured banter, ribald humor, anecdotes about his early jazz achievements and introductions of two special friends, percussionist Tony Gable and first manager Jeffrey Ross, who years ago had connected him with record producer and label executive Clive Davis.

"Between those two guys, that's the reason I'm here," he said.

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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