As director Penny Lane’s documentary “Listening to Kenny G” made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Kenny G spoke about how, after five decades as a successful musician, it’s important to find collaborators who you trust.

“We went out to lunch, Penny and I, and although she was a vegan, I still decided I wanted to trust her,” the saxophonist joked at the Variety Studio at TIFF presented by Canada Goose. “We had a really good time, and I think we both got a feel for each other. She felt like I [was] gonna be upfront with her about stuff, and transparent. I also thought, ‘This is not somebody that’s gonna trick me and do a film, and then I’m not gonna have any control, and then I’m gonna watch and it’s just gonna be something that’s gonna hurt me or hurt my feelings.’ I just trusted her. I felt like I could, and I was correct.”

“I felt like talking to him, I was learning a lot about how to deal with my critics,” Lane said, explaining how her time profiling the musician affected her. “There’s film critics that will write reviews of this film, and some of them will be good and some of them will be bad. And right now I’m remembering this feeling where you put your heart and soul into something for years and years, and you agonize over every choice, and then someone just dashes off a tweet, and it can be really hurtful. But I just have to remember, what would Kenny G do?”

And through “Listening to Kenny G,” Lane and the saxophonist spend time looking back at his journey in the music business, contextualizing how this jazz artist could both be extremely successful and also critically controversial.

“It’s easy to think that this whole phenomenon [of Kenny G’s career] is dreamed up by greedy record executives who put things in a dish that they knew, from market research, would work,” Lane explained. “People who watch the film might be really surprised to see this whole period in Kenny’s career where he’s really struggling to figure out how to be his authentic self within a corporate, commercial construct. That was where I related to him.”

“I’m an artist, but I don’t want to be like, ‘My definition of authenticity is that I don’t listen to anybody,” she continued. “I wanna have an audience. I wanna have a distributor. I’d like to make another film. I’d like for audiences to like my work… I related to him on that front. It’s a very humanizing aspect of Kenny’s story.”

But gusty as he may be, Kenny G isn’t totally fearless. For example, he’s not quite brave enough to cut his trademark hairdo. “Honestly, I don’t even color it or anything,” Kenny G explained, as Lane cut in. “It’d be like a waste of God’s gift to you.”

The duo also addressed a misconception that Kenny G’s audience is “primarily white yuppies.”

“Why would The Weeknd be calling me if that was the case? Why is Kanye [West] asking me to play on his record?” Kenny G said.

“There’s so much assumptions flying around all the time about artists, and what they’re doing, and their intentions and whatnot,” Lane said. “So I thought it was really important to give Kenny a chance to speak for himself and describe his process as an artist. His ideas about art and art-making may not be exactly the same as everybody in the audience, but it’s worth hearing, right?”

The documentary also dives into questions of whether some of Kenny G’s success can be chalked up to cultural appropriation or other bias, given that he’s a white artist playing music often popularized by Black musicians.

“When Penny asked me, I honestly had never ever thought about it before? Because, you know, it’s a great question,” the artist explained. “And as I said, in the film, I’m sure that there were some good advantages because I wasn’t Black. That probably happened.”

“But at the time, the radio was separated into Black radio, white radio, or pop radio, so few artists would [cross over] at that time,” he continued. “Like Whitney Houston was just crossing over, and I crossed over, but a lot of it, I still want to say that I really believe that it’s the music. If there’s something intangible about a melody, it touches people.”