Kenny considers An Intimate Affair, a smartly realized, soulful and jazzy recording, to be his most focused outing to date. "My musical perspective has changed as time has gone by," he says, "and looking back at my first three albums, I aimed to be objective about the elements of them that really worked for me. This time, I wanted more of a flowing connection from tune to tune, because a more unified approach lends more emotional power to the listening experience. I tend to shift moods a lot, and I find that these have more impact if the stylistic ideas remain consistent. I mixed up the moods and styles, just not at the same time."
Helping solidify Kenny's vision into a cohesive, satisfying whole is Seattle-based composer/producer Erik Huber, who penned and produced all the original tracks, and also played keyboards. "When I met Erik, I knew he was exactly the collaborator I was looking for in terms of understanding the approach I wanted to take," Kenny adds. "I once heard Kurt Vonnegut say that the whole trick to effective writing was not to be boring, and Erik's tunes have a special quality of movement that I responded to immediately. They wear very well. Our chemistry comes from personality, not just ability, because without the great communication that takes place in the studio, all the ability in the world won't make a satisfying recording."
An Intimate Affair features Kenny's labelmate and recent touring buddy, Dallas pianist Joe McBride, on several tracks, contributions from Kenny G's long-time guitarist John Raymond, and a breezy acoustic guitar passage by Seattle-based Phil Sheeran on the title cut. Like other recent Heads Up releases, An Intimate Affair is also an enhanced CD with over 30 minutes of video complementing the music for CD-ROM users. Included are nine soundbytes from Kenny's first three albums, plus a video interview.
Those moodshifts Kenny speaks of ease us into the opening title track, which begins with a silky, late-night sax passion before Sheeran and Raymond add a gentle guitar explosion to the increasingly punchy rhythms. "Sunday Serenade" offers a stirring, hip-hop showcase for the exciting energy of Kenny's soprano and Joe McBride's ivory cool, while the hypnotic percussion textures of "European Undergound" introduce the Blake trademark of doubling and tripling on the saxes. "The tenor is the vocal lead," he muses, "and the soprano and alto are the mirroring singers."
Kenny reminds us of his exquisite way with a lush romantic ballad on the wistful "Stand a Little Closer," then joins Huber in turning up the throb-knob on the fiery, electro-funkfest "Heartland to Soulville," a turbocharged jam featuring John Raymond's guitar at its most slamming. After yet another lilting soprano romance with McBride on "Contemplation Swing," Kenny explores the R&B side of his roots on the rap-spiced, this-is-who-I-am, hip-hop shuffle "Steeltown," a danceable tale of the fast-paced urban lifestyle complete with blues riffs, horn doubling and DJ scratches. His love for covers of classic pop tunes reaches back to the glorious bubblegum soul days of The Jackson Five's rambunctious "ABC."