On 'Innocence,' Kenny G's jazz lullabies aren't just for kids. They're for everyone

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2023 Invision

Saxophonist Kenny G poses for a portrait in Los Angeles to promote his album of lullabies titled Innocence, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LOS ANGELES – Four decades into his career – which include countless world tours, 20 studio albums, the Guinness World Record for bestselling jazz artist, and a Grammy – saxophonist Kenny G is grateful that his music continues to resonate.

“It’s not just my hard work, because I work hard. I practice every day for three hours – every single day,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s not just that. There’s more to it. There’s the timing of things. Then there's the intangibles of why does a melody sound good to me.”

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That latter element is crucial. If there is a constant in the career of Kenny G, it’s found in his chase and appreciation for melodies. On Dec. 1, that hunt will result in “Innocence,” his latest album and a collection of lullabies — both familiar and new — arranged in an idiosyncratic Kenny G fashion.

“I’ve already made music that people get engaged to, and then I made music they get married to and then they tell me how they make babies to my music. Well, I said, I’ve got to complete the circle now. Let me make them a record that you can use to put them to sleep,” he jokes.

“I think it was more about making something that people could share in their family and intimate moments,” he adds.

The title, “Innocence,” reflects the innocence of childhood, sure, but also the innocence of a lullaby — the sweet melodies we all share. Although Kenny G believes this album is “not just for kids.”

On “Innocence,” next to familiar titles like “Rock-a-Bye Baby” and “Edelweiss” is a lesser-known cut from Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, “Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1.” It's the kind of classical lullaby that Kenny G hopes inspires curious listeners to dive deeper — just like his original smooth jazz material has led to dives into improvisational music by his loyal fans.

He’s also quick to point out that there are differences in how lullabies are composed and structured across cultures — what he muses he might explore in the future.

But for now, on “Innocence,” he sees a common thread across these Western lullabies. “The melodies are very simple and they resolve themselves,” he says. “There’s always a way of it coming back to something. It’s not a melody that just goes.”

And returning to the start, no doubt, provides the listener with some comfort.

Asked if these songs will appear on his tour’s set list, Kenny G offers another joke: “I’m already accused of putting people to sleep with my music,” he says. “So, the last thing I want to do is play lullabies during my concert.”