Critics might loathe him, jazz purists might despair of him, but enough people have bought into Kenny G’s smooth, relaxed pop melodies and radio-friendly jazz to turn him into one of the best-selling artists of all time. To date, he’s sold over 75 million records, released the best-selling Christmas album of all time, and become one of the very few artists in the US to earn a diamond certification for one of their albums. Here, we take a look back at his biggest hits and misses as we rank all the Kenny G albums from worst to best.
18. Kenny G
Kenny G first broke onto the scene in 1982 with his distinctly underwhelming self-titled debut album. Despite reaching a respectable number 10 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, his melodies and improvisation are clearly in their embryonic stage, making it one for Kenny G fanatics only.
Kenny G’s third studio album is all about producer Kashif, whose contributions elevate what would otherwise be a lackluster album into an enjoyable ride. Released in May 1985, Gravity climbed to number 97 on the Billboard 200 and number 13 on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart.
16. Brazilian Nights
After a five-year absence, Kenny G returned in 2015 with his first solo album since 2010’s Heart and Soul. Like 2008’s Romance and Rhythms, Brazilian Nights is inspired by Brazilian bossa nova, a genre that G seems effortlessly comfortable with. A deeply relaxing, exceptionally laid-back collection of songs steeped in genteel romance, the album reached number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz chart and number 86 on the Billboard 200.
15. Faith: A Holiday Album
Kenny G’s second shot at the holiday market was a predicable success, reaching number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and number 6 on the Billboard 200 to become the best-selling Christmas album of 1999 in the US. It’s since been certified triple platinum.
14. G Force
A year after making his underwhelming debut, Kenny G returned with his sophomore outing, G Force. It’s a much sleeker affair than its predecessor, with producer and multi-instrumentalist Kashif adding a fun, R&B vibe. Released in January 1983, it reached number 6 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, number 17 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, and number 62 on the Billboard 200.
13. Heart and Soul
Kenny G’s sixteenth album is Heart and Soul, a collection of jazzy pop songs that might not convince jazz purists, but makes for blissfully relaxing listening for the rest of us. Released in June 2010, it reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Jazz Albums chart and picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Kenny G’s eleventh studio album became his first album since his debut not to certify platinum in the US. On the bright side, it still managed to certify gold and reach number 9 on the Billboard 200. Key tracks to listen out for include the feisty blues jam Midnight Magic, the jubilant Brazil, and the dreamy One More Time.
11. Rhythm & Romance
In 2008, Kenny G ventured into bossa nova territory with his fifteenth studio album, Rhythm & Romance. Described by All Music, as a straight-up Latin dance album, G’s decision to immerse himself fully in the genre rather than simply apply a light Latin tinge to his trademark sound was a brave choice, but one that paid off, especially on highlights like the romantic Sabor a Mi and the hugely fun Miramir Bailar.
10. Wishes: A Holiday Album
In 2002, Kenny G ventured yet again into the Christmas market with Wishes: A Holiday Album. While there are no real surprises, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable listen, with the lively medley of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman standing out as a highlight.
9. I’m in the Mood For Love…The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time
In 2006, Kenny G released his third album of duets, I’m in the Mood For Love…The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time. The album reached number 37 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz chart. There are a few forgettable numbers, but standouts like the warm title track and the excellent cover of Fly Me to the Moon make it essential listening.
8. Miracles: The Holiday Album
In 1994, Kenny G ventured into the Christmas market for the first time with Miracles: The Holiday Album. After applying his Midas touch to Christmas classics like Winter Wonderland and White Christmas, he saw out the year at number one on the Billboard 200, Contemporary Jazz Albums, and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, and can now claim to have the best selling Christmas album of all time.
7. At Last…The Duets Album
For his thirteenth studio album, Kenny G invited a bunch of his friends to join him in the studio, resulting in a lovely collection of duets with the likes of LeAnn Rimes, Barbara Streisand, and Burt Bacharach. Chaka Khan’s performance on Christina Aquilera’s Beautiful and Earth, Wind & Fire’s rendition of Outast’s The Way You Move are among the most memorable of the songs.
6. Classics in the Key of G
Some of the song choices on Classics in the Key of G might be predictable, but even such overdone standards as Summertime, What a Wonderful World, and The Look of Love take on fresh life thanks to Kenny G’s smooth lyricism and obvious affection for the material. Released in June 1999, the album reached number 17 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
5. New Standards
In December 2001, Kenny G released his latest studio offering, New Standards, an elegant take on the American Popular Songbook he’s since described as “a wonderful (and painstaking) labor of love” to concordjazz.com. Keys tracks to watch out for include the sophisticated Emeline and the gorgeous Paris by Night.
4. The Moment
Four years after releasing the multi-million-selling Breathless, Kenny G returned with another lush, melodic collection of pop-jazz offerings. Key tracks to listen out for include the excellent duet with Babyface, Everytime I Close My Eyes, and the equally outstanding That Somebody Was You with Toni Braxton.
In May 1985, Kenny G’s career went into overdrive with the release of Duotones. Known as the home of the top 5 hit Songbird, the album showcases G’s smooth, lyrical instrumentation and melodic jazz to perfection. Since reaching number 6 on the Billboard 200 and number 5 on the Jazz Albums chart, the album has gone on to certify 5x platinum in the US.
Breathless didn’t win over the critics gave it a dismal D grade, as did almost every other rock critic and jazz purist who reviewed it) but it won over everyone else, sailing to number 2 on the Billboard 200 and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, and number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. It’s since become one of the 100 best-selling albums of all time in the US.
After breaking through into the mainstream with his fourth album Duotones, Kenny G continued his white-hot streak with Silhouette. An engaging blend of smooth melodies and radio-ready jazz, the album took G to number 1 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and number 8 on the Billboard 200, confirming his status as the biggest pop instrumentalist in the US.