MALIBU, Calif. — Kenny G still has something to prove.
The biggest-selling instrumental artist of the modern era is recognized worldwide — particularly in China — for his smooth saxophone skills and trademark mop of curly hair. Sure, he’s long been a punch line for “South Park” and musical purists, but generally laughs off criticism with his own self-deprecating humor.
Now the 58-year-old artist born Kenneth Gorelick hungers for a certain cachet beyond platinum plaques. He’d like tunes from his latest album, “Brazilian Nights,” mixed in on traditional jazz radio between the likes of Stan Getz and Miles Davis.
“If they don’t play this, it’s only because they must not like me and what they think I stand for,” Kenny G said in an interview, referring to station programmers. “This is traditional jazz. It’s played very authentic and I did my homework. If they listen and go ‘ugh’ then they’re not listening to it. They’re just looking at my face and going ‘ugh.’”
The album released last month features covers of bossa nova standards like “Corcovado” and “Girl From Ipanema,” along with several of Kenny G’s own compositions, including “Bossa Real.”
The smooth jazz saxophonist recorded in a newly built studio at his gated sea-view compound in Malibu. He counts Hollywood titans as his neighbors and purchased special equipment so that he can watch first-run movies at his home theater.
Film is a passion. And his continuing inability to break into composing for movies is a “pet peeve,” he said.
“There’s a door that says, ‘You can do movie scores.’ I’ve gone up to the door and I’ve knocked. Nobody answers,” he said. “Sometimes it cracks open and I go, ‘Hey do you remember me?’ And they go, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’ll work with you.’ Then they slam the door.”
He said he’s hoping a high-profile movie director will eventually consider his work, even ironically.
“You know what’s going to happen? Quentin Tarantino is going to call me,” Kenny G said, smiling. “Because I’m going to be so quirky for what he’s doing. He’ll be doing a movie and he’s going to go, ‘Oh yeah, one of his songs would sound really out of place there. That’s perfect.’”
For now, he’s trying to gather the courage to approach director Ron Howard, having already written three melodies he thinks would be perfect for films, one in particular for a Howard movie.
“These three melodies, if you hear them, and if they were the theme from the movie ... you would go, ‘OK, those have to be nominated for Academy Awards,’” Kenny G said. “I just hope I don’t do them all in the same year.”
He pauses, considering, and smiles.
“Maybe I should do them all in the same year. Then you’ve got a better chance.”