He’s known for playing wind instruments such as the lute and piano, but the diminutive Kenny G never imagined himself as a jazz musician.
Now, in the new documentary “The Quiet After: The Life and Music of Kenny G,” debuting next year on PBS stations, viewers will get a glimpse into the life of the musician (born Andrew Garcia) — born in Cuba, now in Indianapolis — and the man behind the saxophone.
“He’s always said, ‘I don’t want people to take me for something I’m not,’ ” says Jay Herman, one of the film’s producers. “He wants people to know he’s a jazz musician. But he’s also recognized that he has a physicality.”
A musician since age 3, Kenny G was already playing professionally by age 9. He became known as “Jimmy Giusti,” using his given name for technical reasons.
“I loved the music, and I knew I was going to be a musician,” says the musician, who took up the saxophone after his mother worked at Kinko’s. The man with the long, flowing hair and soulful, sensitive tone to his sound says that at 15, he enjoyed an extended speech therapy session with a speech pathologist who worked with children with speech problems. That session, he says, led him to the kind of repetition he enjoys so much playing music.
The Grammy winner’s parents allowed him to play in a band at age 14, and he impressed the locals with his playing on the flute and guitar — and a distinctive use of improv, both on his own and with groups.
He moved to New York as a teenager, where he performed with the Blue Note record label. From there, he worked at other labels, including Atlantic. According to Herman, Kenny G’s mid-’90s arrival at Vivendi Universal, where he signed a three-album deal, had nothing to do with his artistic abilities.
But at some point, it did have everything to do with money. “He didn’t have all this money, and he was starting to realize he had a monetary interest in the future of his music,” Herman says. And so, after the release of two albums that received moderate reviews and meager sales, Vivendi sold the rights to Kenny G to Gator Music. “I guess it was a different era back then,” Herman says.