Saxophonist Kenny G has worked with some of the most iconic names in the music business, among them Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, but there are two names at the top of his wish-list.

“I would say Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John,” he says, barely pausing for thought. “I”m still waiting for the phone to ring. If they are reading this (he says, somewhat optimistically), I would be honoured. There would be no charge.”

Of those he has collaborated with over the past 40 years, he says: “I am very proud of being on Frank Sinatra’s Duets album. I was not in the studio with him and I didn’t know him, but just to be in the line-up for that record was super-flattering.

“Being in the studio with Smokey Robinson was most fun. He was so nice and sweet and supportive.”

Kenny G, real name Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, first took up the sax at the age of 10, after hearing someone playing the instrument on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“The guy stood up out of the band. I liked the sound and I thought he looked to be having fun,” he recalls. “It looked a lot more fun than playing the piano, which I was learning at the time.

“My first job was with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. I was only 17 and I was sitting there playing with Barry White and receiving accolades.”

How did that come about?

“My band director at high school was talking to somebody who was putting together the orchestra for Barry White. His sax player couldn’t make it and he was looking for a sax player who could improvise.

“That was a life-changing thing for me. It gave me the confidence that if I wanted a music career I might be good enough to do it.”

The 57-year-old has gone on to sell more albums than any other sax player, his most memorable tracks including Songbird, which was a massive hit over here in the 80s, Every Time I Close My Eyes and You’re Beautiful.

Saxophonist Kenny G
Saxophonist Kenny G
 

He even created a whole new cool, mellifluous genre of music – smooth jazz – incorporating funk R&B, soul and rock influences.

“That form of music came into existence because people wanted to have a label for what I did,” he tells me. “It’s very flattering – a whole genre of music that came about because people liked what I was doing and didn’t know what to call it. Now there are radio stations devoted to playing that music.”

I remark that his 2010 album Heart & Soul credits a huge number of people.

“I usually make a very long list,” he admits. “People get very excited to see their names on a CD. My motive is to make people feel honoured and special.”

One name on that list is his long-standing songwriting partner Walter Afanasieff, of whom he says: “He’s amazing. We’ve been friends for 30 years. There’s a special chemistry that happens when we start making music. I don’t see that changing at all.”

They are currently working on an album of bossa nova music that they hope to complete this spring.

Another name on the list is that of his son Max, who plays guitar on Heart & Soul.

“He sits in with me sometimes. He’s a fantastic player,” says the proud dad. “I try to include him as much as possible.”

Max’s place on the album is purely on merit, he insists.

“It’s only because he’s good enough and he knows that,” says Kenny. “He’s really earned the right to be there.”

Kenny is calling me from his LA home, where he says the temperature outside is touching 80 deg F.

“It’s one of those beautiful winter days,” he adds. “I am going to hit some golf balls later.”

He also has a pilot’s licence and a small propeller plane that he likes to fly between gigs when they are less than about 400 miles apart.

“When I have to start changing states,” he says. “I go commercial.”

Commercial airlines will definitely be the order of the day when his spring tour takes him to Moscow and Warsaw before landing in the UK for three dates that include one at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on April 21.

When asked for his memories of Birmingham, he admits: “I have travelled the world, but I haven’t seen much of it.

“This time, I have three dates in three days. We will be playing concerts, waking up, travelling, doing sound checks and, hopefully, finding places to eat. The only time I can see a place is if we get a day off.”

He does have one memory of Brum: “I do remember the first time I had eel at a sushi restaurant was in Birmingham. I was kind of grossed out to try it.”

* Kenny G plays Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on April 21. Tickets are priced £40 and £45. Tel: 0121 780 3333. www.thsh.co.uk