Clive’s Cringes Act 3: Mr. Gorelick’s Opus

on Jul 30 in Music by

Kenny G.

 ”Clive’s Cringes,” by Hunter Pope, is an ongoing series examining Clive Davis’s more “interesting” signings  for Arista Records. Check out part one for a full explanation.

Kenny G. is the best selling instrumentalist of all time. More than Sonny Rollins. More than John Coltrane. More…than…(this is hard ) Charlie…Parker. His airy sound and contemporary Caucasian corniness incensed numerous critics and musicians who couldn’t understand the draw.

Clive Davis knew he was mining gold when he signed saxophonist, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick. Unfortunately, Davis couldn’t have known the future disdain by fellow musicians, critics, and the majority of the listening public. It’s a universal scorn that carries venom to this day.

“His music is ambient dandelion-fluff, wrote New York Times critic, Ben Ratliff, “that I knew plenty about from being put on hold by telephone receptionists.”

The final straw came in 1999 when Mr. Gorelick decided to cover Louis Armstrong’s classic, “What a Wonderful World”.

Try to get through all of this. Just try.


This set off a critic firestorm. Many pointed out that Armstrong’s amazing breadth for improvisation should never be covered by a musician whose classical jazz background was already intensely scrutinized.

Musician Pat Metheny became the voice for many: “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.”

Clive Davis never lost a wink of sleep on this assessment.

75 million sold records told him so.


Here’s one more nightmare before we go. Enjoy.


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