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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Smooth jazz is a genre of music that grew out of jazz fusion blended with easy listening pop music, featuring a polished pop feel with little to no jazz improvisation.[1] The genre arose in the mid-1970s in the United States, but it was not named "smooth jazz" until the 1980s.[2] Traditional jazz players and jazz purists did not embrace the popular style; Jazz Journal's "Sound Investment" column stated in November 1999 that it "would cover an extremely wide spectrum of jazz styles" while avoiding smooth jazz.

The earliest smooth jazz music appearing in the 1970s include the 1975 album Touch by saxophonist John Klemmer, the song "Breezin'" as performed by guitarist George Benson in 1976, the 1977 instrumental composition "Feels So Good" by flugelhorn player Chuck Mangione, and jazz fusion group Spyro Gyra's instrumental "Morning Dance", released in 1979.[2] Smooth jazz grew in popularity in the 1980s as Anita Baker, Sade, Al Jarreau and Grover Washington released multiple hit songs.[3] The smooth jazz genre began to decline at the end of the 1980s in a backlash exemplified by critical complaints about what many critics saw as the "bland" sound of top-selling saxophonist Kenny G, whose popularity peaked with his 1992 album Breathless.[2]

Description

In general a smooth jazz track is downtempo (the most widely played tracks are in the 90–105 BPM range)[citation needed], layering a melody played on instruments such as soprano and tenor saxophone or guitar over a backdrop that typically consists of programmed rhythms and various synth pads or samples.[citation needed]

Origins

Smooth jazz can be traced back to at least the late 1960s. Producer Creed Taylor worked with guitarist Wes Montgomery on three popular records (1967's A Day in the Life and Down Here on the Ground and 1968's Road Song) consisting of instrumental versions of familiar pop songs such as "Eleanor Rigby", "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Scarborough Fair". While jazz musicians had performed pop hits since the early 1900s, Montgomery's commercially successful albums were somewhat of a departure from this tradition, containing little of the complex improvisation of his earlier recordings and being aimed squarely at pop music audiences. Reviewing A Day In the Life, critic Scott Yannow writes, "although the jazz content is almost nil, the results are pleasing as background music."[4]

From these commercially successful records with Montgomery, Taylor founded CTI Records. Many established jazz performers recorded for CTI (including Freddie Hubbard, Chet Baker, George Benson, and Stanley Turrentine). The records recorded under Taylor's guidance were typically aimed as much at pop audiences as at jazz fans, with ornate string section arrangements, and a much stronger emphasis on melody than was typical in jazz. Some critics and jazz fans expressed a distaste for CTI releases, but much of the label's output is now generally well-regarded: Yanow writes, "Taylor had great success in balancing the artistic with the commercial."[5] Hubbard's funk/fusion album Red Clay, issued by CTI and containing a lengthy cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey", has been described as arguably "Hubbard's finest moment as a leader."[6]

In addition to Benson, jazz musicians in the 1970s whose style would be called smooth jazz today included Bob James, David Sanborn, Herb Alpert, Al Jarreau and Chuck Mangione.[7]

Critical and public reception

The AllMusic guide to jazz fusion states that smooth jazz has none of the improvisational "risk-taking" of jazz fusion. "Unfortunately as it became a moneymaker, much of what was labelled fusion was actually a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B", the combination of which was soon called smooth jazz.[8]

Kenny G in particular is often criticized by both fusion and jazz fans, and some musicians, while having become a huge commercial success. Music reviewer George Graham argues that the "so-called ‘smooth jazz’ sound of people like Kenny G has none of the fire and creativity that marked the best of the fusion scene during its heyday in the 1970s".[9]

Digby Fairweather, before the launch of UK jazz station theJazz, denounced the change to a smooth jazz format on defunct radio station 102.2 Jazz FM, stating that the owners GMG Radio were responsible for the "attempted rape and (fortunately abortive) re-definition of the music — is one that no true jazz lover within the boundaries of the M25 will ever find it possible to forget or forgive."[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Explore: Smooth Jazz". AllMusic. Archived from the original on March 6, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c Gioia, Ted (May 9, 2011). The History of Jazz. Oxford University Press. p. 337. ISBN 9780195399707. 
  3. ^ Larson, Thomas (2002). History and Tradition of Jazz. Kendall Hunt. p. 188. ISBN 9780787275747. 
  4. ^ "a-day-in-the-life", allmusic.com.
  5. ^ Creed Taylor biography
  6. ^ "red-clay", allmusic.com.
  7. ^ Rodman, Sarah "Smooth moves: Did Kenny G ruin the notion of smooth jazz?" Chicago Sun-Times, July 23, 2006.
  8. ^ "Fusion". AllMusic. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2018. 
  9. ^ Graham, George, review.
  10. ^ Fairweather, Digby (2006-11-18). "New Jazz Station - Goodbye to the Smooth, Hello to the Classics". Fly Global Music Culture. Archived from the original on 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
This page was last edited on 15 April 2018, at 23:33.
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