If there is anyone who isn’t a stranger to a cover song, it’s saxophonist Kenny G. He’s penned plenty of his own songs, but a good cover is never out of the question for G, who has peppered his catalog with covers since the beginning of his career. And Kenny G has never been too picky about what songs he makes his own. He has confidently recorded standards, R&B songs, soft rock songs and more. Check out some of this musician’s best covers below.
Kenny G will perform at the City National Grove of Anaheim on March 30. For more information on tickets, click here.
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Cannonball Adderly Cover)”
In the past, critics and pundits have pilloried Kenny G for putting classic jazz standards through his unique saxophone wringer. Writers have spent many hours and have spurted out thousands of words in response to G’s covers of sacred cows, but none of this has ever bothered G because he’s been doing this since the beginning. Consider the leadoff song from his 1981 debut album “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” his cover of Cannonball Adderley's classic song of the same name. Where Adderley is all soul and blues, G’s cover is thoroughly ‘80s. There is some keyboard, his ever-present sax, the whole thing sort of sounding like a song you’d hear over sitcom closing credits. But, to his credit, it’s entirely Kenny G, and that’s what a cover is about. What’s the point if you aren’t going to make it your own?
“I Can’t Tell You Why (Eagles Cover)”
Another cover from Kenny G’s eponymous debut album, here the saxophonist takes on the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why.” The cover is, in a word, ballsy: It takes some guts to try and make “I Can’t Tell You Why” even smoother. The song is literally the smoothest hit the Eagles-- the most successful soft rock band of all time--ever recorded. But back in ‘81, something compelled Kenny G to mellow the song even more, his version staying mostly faithful, complete with sparkling synths and sax that make it pure #mood music.
“If I Ain’t Got You (Alicia Keys Cover)”
“If I Ain’t Got You” is one step removed from being a jazz song, so a smooth jazz version isn’t that far fetched. Kenny G’s cover appears on his best-titled album, I’m In The Mood for Love... - The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time. If Kenny G is naming one of your melodies as the most romantic melody of all time, it’s gotta be true. The man knows nothing but romance, and he issues a serviceable cover of Keys’ Grammy-winning hit.
“Yesterday (The Beatles Cover)”
“Yesterday” is the most covered song in music history and Kenny G came through with the smooth jazz versions to end all smooth jazz versions. G’s take is a credit to just how strong the songwriting and melody of “Yesterday” are; the song’s melancholic feeling bursts through G’s sax, making it one of his most striking covers to date.
“The Girl From Ipanema (Stan Getz and João Gilberto Cover)”
Kenny G has covered the Stan Getz and João Gilberto classic a few times during his career, but his best version comes from his collaboration with Bebel Gilberto. G’s saxophone pairs with Gilberto’s sultry voice effortlessly, capturing a Brazilian vibe that only makes you want to hit the beach and sip on a caipirinha, or two, or three.
Kenny G is on tour and will make a stop at the City National Grove of Anaheim on March 30. Check out ticket information here.