not long ago, kenny g put out a recording where he overdubbed himself on top of a 30+ year old louis armstrong record, the track "what a wonderful world". with this single move, kenny g became one of the few people on earth i can say that i really can’t use at all -- as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.
this type of musical necrophilia -- the technique of overdubbing on the preexisting tracks of already dead performers -- was weird when natalie cole did it with her dad on "unforgettable" a few years ago, but it was her dad. when tony bennett did it with billie holiday it was bizarre, but we are talking about two of the greatest singers of the 20th century who were on roughly the same level of artistic accomplishment. when larry coryell presumed to overdub himself on top of a wes montgomery track, i lost a lot of the respect that i ever had for him -- and i have to seriously question the fact that i did have respect for someone who could turn out to have have such unbelievably bad taste and be that disrespectful to one of my personal heroes.
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. by disrespecting louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, kenny g has created a new low point in modern culture -- something that we all should be totally embarrassed about -- and afraid of. we ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril.