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So much for the death of Jazz: Kenny G drew

Kenny G drew massive crowd to OCC at 27th annual Syracuse Jazz Fest

There's something undeniably fetching about a Kenny G performance.

Partly it's his presence -- boyish, sincere, friendly as a fishing buddy.

Partly it's his musicianship -- golden-toned, melodious, mellow as a warm summer breeze.

But mostly it's his ability to connect, his willingness to engage his listeners whether he's holding a single note as he wanders through the crowd or blowing a romantic riff high into the night sky.

The King of Smooth Jazz enthralled an anxious crowd of 35,000 to climax the 27th annual Syracuse Jazz Festival on Saturday night June 27, at Onondaga Community College.

The 53-year-old Seattle-based soprano saxophonist made a spectacular Syracuse Jazz Fest debut by headlining 2009's two-day event, and festival founder Frank Malfitano characterized his appearance as "historic."

While Kenny G drew the big crowd -- about 5,000 fewer than the 40,000 who turned out for Aretha Franklin's set in 2007 on the festival's silver anniversary -- a host of other performers also made historic stands on the two stages last weekend.

The kick off

The John Tropea Band kicked things off Friday with an electric guitar-oriented set that aptly paid homage to 2009 festival dedicatee Hiram Bullock, the barefooted axeman who died last July at age 52.

Then the Soulbop band took the stage featuring six world-class players who had often worked with Bullock -- trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Bill Evans, keyboardist Katreese Barnes, bassist Frank Gravis, guitarist Mitch Stein and drummer Rodney Holmes. They played an upbeat Bullock composition called "Give 'Em the Rock," which argues in favor of making music, not war.

Bullock's buddy, bassist Will Lee (who played with Tropea's combo), returned to the Louis Everding Main Stage with the West Coast/East Coast Dream Band led by keyboardist David Garfield. Halfway through the octet's set Lee inadvertently knocked over his bass amp. The show continued uninterrupted as crew members scurried to plug Lee back in to his box.

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