“a collection of tuneful, easy-listening instrumentals” (Jeffrey Himes, Amazon.com) with a “complete lack of soul, substance or creativity” (Alex Henderson, All Music Guide)
The Joy of Life
Forever in Love
In the Rain
By the Time This Night Is Over [with Peabo Bryson]
End of the Night
Even if My Heart Would Break [with Aaron Neville]
A Year Ago
The Wedding Song
Forever in Love (11/21/92) #13a US, #47 UK, #1 AC, #73 RB. Airplay: 1 million
By the Time This Night Is Over (5/15/93) #24a US, #56 UK, #1 AC, #37 RB. Airplay: 1 million
Sentimental (12/4/93) #72 US, #27 AC
Even if My Heart Would Break (5/14/94) #28 AC
“Throughout the 1990s, Kenny G was the whipping boy of the jazz world – the instrumentalist who hardcore jazz improvisers loved to bash when the subject of smooth jazz came up. Kenny G’s huge following responded that the attacks were silly and misguided because the saxman was the first to admit that he was primarily a pop instrumentalist and wasn’t pretending to be anything else. True, it was silly for jazz artists to judge Kenny by hard bop standards when hard bop (or even soul-jazz or fusion) was a long way from what he was going for” (Henderson).
“Like its predecessors…Breathless, is a collection of tuneful, easy-listening instrumentals baited with a couple of pop-soul vocal numbers. This album is built on Kenny G’s most obvious strengths: his knack for writing hummable pop hooks and his ability to play those radio-friendly melodies in a breathy, fluid style that invites the listener to lie back and relax. When it comes to background music that’s slightly catchier and peppier than most new age music, Kenny G is a master of his genre” (Himes). He is capable of “simplifying life to a set of comfortable feelings” (Himes). “Even his wordless instrumentals push the listener's warm glow buttons while ignoring anything more complicated” (Himes).
So why the venom in the criticism against him? Isn’t an artist allowed to make the music he wants to make rather than what the critical world dictates? Well, “Breathless isn’t bad because it’s a pop album or because it’s commercial; it’s bad because of its complete lack of soul, substance or creativity…Interchangeable tunes like Sentimental, Forever In Love and End of the Night…are about as bloodless and schlocky as it gets” (Henderson). Kenny sounds “like he’s on automatic pilot” (Henderson), a sense that is enhanced by the fact that “the saxophonist himself programmed many of the drum, bass and keyboard parts” (Himes). He “takes no risks whatsoever and sees to it that one song is as shamelessly contrived as the next. Even the presence of the great R&B crooner Aaron Neville on Even if My Heart Would Break can’t save this one-dimensional release. Whether you’re into pop or jazz, Breathless is unlistenable” (Henderson).