Kenny G almost definitely had a better Valentine’s Day than you this year — at least if your idea of a romantic date involves performing at Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West’s California home. “I’m having a busy Valentine’s Day,” says the sax man, 62, when Rolling Stone reaches him later that evening. “Busier than I thought.”
He was on his way to taping an appearance on James Corden’s show when he called. After that, Kenny G’s Valentine’s night was open: “I’m going out to dinner later, and I have my sax with me, so you never know,” he adds. “I could be serenading everyone at the restaurant, whether they want it or not.”
Can you walk us through how, exactly, you came to perform at Kim and Kanye’s house?
Well, really late last night I got a couple of emails, one from a publicist that knows Kanye’s manager. He told me that Kanye had requested me to come to the house and serenade Kim in the morning. “It’s going to be a room surrounded with roses, and you’re going to stand in the middle of the roses and play.” I thought, “That actually sounds really beautiful.”
Then I got a text from [pop songwriter] David Foster, who told me he had heard about the request and told me I should definitely do it. I didn’t get the message until, like, 11 o’clock at night. It just happened to work out, ‘cause I’m in town and I don’t live very far from where they live. So it worked out really well.
Were the vases with roses all set up when you arrived?
Not quite. It was raining in L.A., so I went early just to make sure I wasn’t late. They were putting all of this stuff together. I did not see the room completed until literally 20 seconds before I started playing.
How many people were working on this? Was it a big team?
I don’t even have enough hands to count all the people that I met. Once I got to the house, I was just warming up in a room, and then Kanye came in. He could not have been nicer. He was so warm and accommodating. Just chit-chatting about music. It was super cool.
What did you and Kanye talk about, music-wise?
Well, when he walked in, I was playing my sax, so I figured I would just play to him. So I started playing some really sweet blues riffs and soulful riffs and a couple of jazz riffs, and I could see he thought it was really good. I said something like, “This kind of sound would be really great with some of your music.” And he said, “Yeah, maybe we can go to the studio and check it out.” So I thought that was cool.
He wasn’t wearing a MAGA hat, was he?
He was not wearing a MAGA hat.
Are you a fan of Kanye’s music?
I’m a fan of everyone’s music, some of what they do. I’m not a not-fan of anybody. Anybody that’s out there doing stuff, I appreciate how hard they work and that they’re putting their heart and soul into their music. Afterwards, we went over to his studio and I got a chance to hear some of his music and talked again about, maybe there’s a possibility of a little sax on a Kanye West record.
What was Kim’s reaction to your performance?
I started playing before I saw her. She was coming around a corner, and I got the nod from Kanye to go. And so I started to play, and when she came, she just went, “Oh my god,” and then she looked at me and was smiling and just kind of stopped. She didn’t know what to do with herself for a minute. Then she got her phone out, which was awesome.
NO BIG DEAL KENNY G IN MY LIVING ROOM!!! Happy Valentines Day 💋💋💋 pic.twitter.com/A1GD0UlEwu
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 14, 2019
Had you met either of them before this?
It was my first time meeting him. I had met Kim before — we flew on a flight together once. I think it was from Miami back to L.A., and we were sitting next to each other. I remember that there was a 13-year-old girl from the back of the plane that wanted to come up and talk to Kim, and I’m thinking she’s going to say, “Listen, I’m in my private space, blah blah blah,” but Kim said “No, send her up.” I was super impressed by how friendly and encouraging Kim was to this young girl that I’m sure was so starstruck.
Are you working on any music of your own right now?
I’m actually working on a new CD. It takes me a long time to make records. It just does. I think there’s enough material out in the world, so you gotta make a record for a reason. This one is called New Standards. It sounds like the old jazz standards from the Fifties and Sixties, but they’re new songs that I’m composing, so they have my melodic sense, and I’m playing them the way that I like to play, and I’m trying to honor the old jazz greats as well as making sure that it still sounds like me.
Who’s your favorite jazz great?
That’s just so hard to answer. I mean, you sound like you’re pretty young, so I don’t think you know too much about jazz. And I don’t say that with any disrespect, but I could name you six or seven names you wouldn’t know: Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins…there’s so many. Then you have Miles Davis, who played a beautiful trumpet.
Do you like Chet Baker?
How do you know that name?
I’m a big fan of jazz.
I am sorry if I insulted you. Good for you. Chet Baker’s one of my favorites.
On your Twitter, is that actually you tweeting?
It’s me tweeting probably 30 percent.
Those puns are incredible.
There’s a good team. We definitely see eye-to-eye on humor. They surprise me sometimes with some super-funny ones. The Weird Al Yankovic one, that was my tweet. I did that myself. I saw him at the Grammy party, Clive’s party. I’d never met him either. I said “Weird Al, this is way long overdue.”