To properly assess the import of last month's release of The Essential Kenny G (coughoxymoron!coughcough), Outtakes put the word out that we were looking for a true-blue G lover to question. The only tip we got led us to Nelson Pierre, a 51-year-old, Haitian-born handyman from Delray Beach. What follows is a transcription of our conversation with Pierre, who was as glowingly sincere in his affection as a starstruck puppy.
Outtakes: So I'm told you're a big Kenny G fan.
Pierre: Oh, that's my buddy. He's the best, you know. He's a professional golf player too now.
Oh yeah, everybody knows it. He's the best. He's on top of Tiger Woods now. You heard that? That man is good; he's the best.
What exactly do you like about him?
Exactly what I like about him he can play saxophone good; he's the number one. He plays jazz good; that's why everybody go on about him, because he's the number-one jazz player. He's that good.
Yeah, I guess he's sold more records than any other jazz player.
OK, I'm glad you know that one. Exactly. He's more famous than all of them too, and he got more money than all of them. He's a rich man.
Why's he so popular, you think?
Because he's good at what he does. He plays jazz good.
Tell me three things that make him so good.
What make him so good? They like him because he knows how to play saxophone good. And he's a professional golf player, and he's a very smart man. So everybody like him. All right! And whatever he got, he shares with people. He go everywhere across the water and share everything he got with people. That's why everybody crazy about him.
That's cool. I didn't know that.
Now you know. You gotta give him credit he's the best. You gotta tell him he's the best.
Ever see him live?
I saw him one time. You know where I was? I was in Manhattan. New York, all right? He had a big concert. People cried. Everybody cried. He made everybody cry, you know, big people like him, and people cry like a kid. Water come in my eye too. And then when he play, he make people crazy about him. He good man; he good people. He care about people. Whoever they are, he cares. He's the best.
Well, I've got a, uh, extra copy of this double-disc greatest-hits collection. You can have it if you want it.
Oh Lord! Oh Lord! I sure appreciate that! If I find you, I'll kiss you all over your head.
You have a favorite song? Maybe it's on here...
There's a song called "Magnum" or something like that. One called "Graceful"; that's how he made all that money. He sold more albums than any other jazz player. That's why he's the best. Now you gonna like him, right? He can make you cry too. He good. You listen to him; he good. I'm serious. Water gonna come in your eye too. Jonathan Zwickel
Jay Dee, RIP
On February 10, hip-hop producer J Dilla (a.k.a. Jay Dee, a.k.a. James Yancey) passed away due to complications from a long-standing bout with liver disease. Though he lacked the marquee status of the Neptunes or Timbaland, Dilla leaves behind a catalog that is unparalleled in hip-hop. He produced for A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, D'Angelo, De La Soul, Janet Jackson, and Erykah Badu, collaborated with Madlib, and helped form the seminal Detroit crew Slum Village. His blend of delicate, jazz-inflected melodies and shuffling, off-tempo drum lines provided a sonic template for an entire generation of beatsmiths.
Dilla began his career at a young age in Detroit. When Slum Village formed in 1988, he was all of 15 years old. While still in junior high, Dilla ascended the Motor City's underground hip-hop ranks. And though he was a local phenom, most wouldn't hear his work until A Tribe Called Quest's 1996 release, Beats, Rhymes and Life. Popularly considered the beginning of Tribe's decline, Beats is a weak album only in light of Tribe's earlier classics; a case could be made that his production there and on 1999's The Love Movement was the strongest in Tribe's catalog. Though Dilla's drums were considered non-ostentatious by hip-hop standards and rightfully so, given the intricacy of his samples and his creeping atmospherics he made them stand out by stuttering the rhythm ever so slightly. It was an approach that Dilla would employ liberally throughout his career.
With the stamp of approval from one of hip-hop's all-time great groups, Dilla was officially in demand. He worked on De La Soul's Stakes Is High release, and during 2000 produced landmark works like Common's Like Water for Chocolate, D'Angelo's Voodoo, and Badu's Mama's Gun. Fantastic Vol. 2, the sophomore album from Slum Village, is considered an underground classic. In recent years, Dilla slowed his output due to his illness, though late-period albums such as 2003's Champion Sound his collaboration with disciple Madlib and Donuts, released the week of his death, are among his strongest material (see our review in Short Cuts).
While his influence is most evident in underground acts like the Roots and Little Brother, his subtlety and odd chord structures are echoed in the more cerebral work of the Neptunes; it surprised no one when Pharrell Williams confessed last year that Dilla was his favorite producer. It's an opinion that many share, and Dilla's passing leaves an instant void in the hip-hop universe. Sam Chennault
Livin' on Good Hair
Our love for Bon Jovi runs deep. Back in '87, we knew the exact length of Jon's teased tresses (18 inches) and had identified his high school sweetheart (what kind of stupid name is Dorothea?) as our archnemesis. When he married her, we cried for three full days.
But until last week, it never occurred to us that some people love Mr. New Jersey for his music. "When I was 13," 29-year-old rocker Adam Jason explains, calling from the cell phone store where he works, "I heard 'You Give Love a Bad Name' on the radio and I flipped out. I grabbed a tennis racket and started playing air guitar. My mom was like, 'What are you, retarded?' They've been my favorite band to this day."
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Eventually, Jason picked up a real guitar and started writing songs. On his MySpace page, he describes his band the eponymous Adam Jason Band as "straightforward rock 'n' roll" that "deftly intertwines the commercial sensibilities of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard." Two months ago, he got the smiley-face logo from Bon Jovi's latest album, Have a Nice Day, tattooed on his wrist. And when he heard that Bon Jovi was holding a contest to find an opening band in each city it played, he knew his destiny was at hand.
Jason went on to beat 100 or so other acts to play the BankAtlantic Center on Friday, February 10. He got the congratulatory call just 48 hours before he was to go onstage. No problem: He rounded up the guys he'd been playing with ("The band has only been together for a week"), gelled up his highlighted hair, and belted out five polished rock songs.
"It was the most awesome experience of my life," Jason says. "Every kid dreams of playing in an arena." Usually, he just plays for however many people are hanging out in the Bull Bar in Delray Beach. Despite the blaze of glory, Jason's rock-star ambitions are still modest. "Something might happen," he says, "but the reality is, I'm here selling phones."
And Jason's take on his fave band? "We met them as they were walking to the stage," he says. "They were really nice. They just congratulated us and took a picture." Ah, let 'em go, Adam you're far more our speed these days. Now come over this way so we can measure your hair. Deirdra Funcheon