Kenny G is an extremely common answer for "artist you dislike the most", "music that irritates you" or similar questions. There's a somewhat popular photo of Miles Davis and Kenny G, where Miles Davis seems to be the less amused of the pair.

Miles Davis and Kenny G Photo

We don't know the context. Perhaps Miles Davis was just looking at someone barfing or something. But the photo is often presented as "Miles hates Kenny" or something around those lines.

This trend is even bigger among Jazz musicians, I've noticed, where Kenny G is often called "a lie", "a hack", or something similar.

In contrast, Kenny G is successful in sales, and is popular among other niches, just not among jazz musicians and some jazz enthusiast. This hate seems to go well beyond "I don't like his music" or "I don't like how he plays", so there must be something more to it.

Where did all this hate come from? Why is Kenny G so hated in jazz related circles? Are there objective reasons behind the hate?

  • 2
    You're basically asking the users here for their opinion on other people's opinions.
    – PiedPiper
    Jan 22, 2020 at 11:41
  • There is a harsh joke about Kenny G by Clare Fischer here: youtube.com/watch?v=js0ofXnONg4, at 0.35
    – Watson
    Jun 7, 2020 at 11:58
  • Just asserting that not only is he hated by non-Jazz musicians (rock musician here), but I am sure that he is hated by non-musicians as well. Nov 30, 2021 at 12:46
  • The problem I have with Kenny G is not Kenny G himself. It's the way record companies automatically put up-and-coming instrumentalists (especially horn players) in the JAZZ category. Kenny G is a POP instrumentalist just like 1980s platinum-selling saxophonist Najee is an R&B instrumentalist. Dec 3, 2021 at 17:39
  • The same people who hate on Kenny G are the same people that hate on the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry (many of whom likely drive one of those vehicles). Dec 3, 2021 at 19:04

3 Answers 3


Personally, I find Kenny G's music as pleasant as does the next person. But the hatred for him is neither solely because his music is bland, unchallenging, and largely outside traditional jazz idioms, nor solely because he is enormously popular and successful. It's because his popularity and success stems from the bland inauthenticity of his music.

Jazz is a unique form of music, created largely by African-Americans, fusing, against all odds, both African and European music traditions. In its pure forms, it is immensely challenging to play, demands constant creativity and innovation, and actively moves the listener out of his or her comfort zones.

Kenny G is immensely technically proficient, but his music lulls the listeners, instead of challenging them, and he hasn't done much, if anything, to advance the art form. Nevertheless, he has been rewarded with enormous wealth and popularity, and is synonymous with "jazz" in the minds of many. Fairly, or unfairly, his prominence makes him a symbolic exemplar of countless white artists who have been idolized by the same mainstream audiences that ignore and reject the artists of color who created the genres and styles in the first place. Thus, he is regarded as an undeserving appropriator of the creativity and artistic risk-taking of others. The white jazz artists who have escaped this contempt typically a) have done more personal artistic risk-taking and creative work and b) have been perceived as more visibly respectful of the genre's originators.


It's unclear exactly why Kenny G is the object of so much vilification, particularly from jazz musicians. Kenny would probably never claim that what he plays is jazz.

  • Is it because he's a mediocre player? There are plenty of mediocre players around. I can can go to a local club any night of the week and listen to far worse players.
  • Is it jealousy because he's successful? Unfortunately talent and commercial success have a very poor correlation. Just listen to half the Top-20 hits from the last fifty years.
  • Is it because he's pretentious? A lot of successful people are: just look at some of the politicians and company mangers around.

I get the impression this is like the weaker kid in a school class who gets picked on by a couple of pupils, and then everyone jumps on him. There seems to be no objective justification for the hate, even if one assumes it's possible to be objective at all about music beyond the most basic level (e.g. wrong notes)

There's an interview with Pat Metheny where Pat covers some of this. He would have been prepared to ignore Kenny G, but what really sends him off the rails is Kenny G overdubbing himself on top of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". This is a simple pop ballad, and probably the least musically interesting thing that Armstrong ever recorded, but the interview turns into a rant:

But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician.

The whole article is worth reading, but there is nothing objective about Pat's opinion.

The question is garnished with a photo of Miles Davis sitting next to Kenny G and looking somewhat less than happy. The claim that this is evidence of Miles' dislike of Kenny G doesn't hold up. I don't think I've ever seen a photo of Miles smiling except on the cover of his 1966 album titled, with a touch of self-irony, "Miles Smiles".
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  • 1
    The question is not whether Kenny G plays out of tune, or is otherwise mediocre ( which which I totally agree). It's about why Kenny G is singled out as a hate object. Why him and not for example Sonny Stitt who consistently plays horribly out of tune?
    – PiedPiper
    Jan 22, 2020 at 20:49
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    @VonHuffman Maybe I didn't explain clearly enough. Metheny's general criticism (out of tune, small vocabulary, rhythmic problems etc.) is about as objective as music criticism can be, and correct. It's also undisputed that G overdubbed "Wonderful World" but Metheny's interpretation of this as almost a sacrilege is subjective. Follow the YouTube link: there are over 300 comments, probably half of them are positive. Metheny's hatred is subjective. If he hates G for not measuring up to Coltrane's standards why doesn't he hate Maceo Parker or David Sanborn for not measuring up to Parker's?
    – PiedPiper
    Jan 22, 2020 at 22:07
  • On Davis smiling: have you never seen Tom Palumbo's photo of Davis (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Miles_Davis_by_Palumbo.jpg)? It's currently on Davis's Wikipedia page. In most of the photos he's playing the trumpet, so of course he's not smiling.
    – phoog
    Oct 14, 2021 at 14:49
  • @phoog Thanks, I hadn't seen that photo. A rare sight!
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 14, 2021 at 15:29

Kenny is an accomplished player he's put the time in on his instrument that's abundantly true whether you like him or not. I do however feel his earlier work with Jeff Lorber, Cold Blood, etc was more for me. I also think he's a good businessman is supported by his Starbucks Coffee investments. However there have been comments made by Kenny that either seem to be ignorant of Jazz history and it's players as he has comments that seem to be degrading or misconceived like this one from the Barnes & Nobel website: If anyone needed another reason to despise Kenny G, here it is. This is from an interview from the Barnes & Noble website, with Ted Panken giving the interview. According to Kenny G, this is how jazz legend Charlie Parker got his nickname of "Bird". It's truly incredible:

Kenny G: "Nobody played faster and more clean than him. Except that there was another saxophone player named Sonny Stitt. He was actually an almost exact duplicate of Charlie Parker, except he played it even cleaner. Charlie Parker would squeak a lot, and that's why they called him Bird, because his reed would chirp."

Panken: "You think that's why they called him Bird? That's interesting."

Kenny G: "That is why why they called him Bird. That was the deal. He played so fast, and his reed would chirp because of it...I don't know, it just couldn't take the speed of his fingers. But Sonny Stitt used to do it without the chirping thing, and played beautiful. But I don't think he ever got the same accolades that Charlie Parker did, mainly because Charlie Parker was the first one."

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