It’s been a few weeks since I have posted to this blog, and for that I apologize. If you’re glad I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks I suppose I should say I apologize for this post, but I won’t. April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so today’s topic is smooth jazz, also known as contemporary jazz in some quarters, although they are not exactly the same.
Smooth jazz grew out of the work of late 1960s jazz musicians such as Wes Montgomery. George Benson was one of the first jazz musicians to play smooth jazz. Some jazz historians say the first smooth jazz record was Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic,” from 1979. The idea behind smooth jazz was to add a danceable beat to the traditional jazz sound. Smooth jazz may be roughly described as music played usually at 90-105 beats per minute that features a lead instrument, usually sax or guitar, backed up by programmed rhythms or samples. It is often called background music, but I love to listen to it, mainly because it just stays in the background and does not demand my whole attention, and because the songs are short, unlike many straight ahead jazz songs which sometimes feature an artist blowing atonal sounds on a tenor sax for ten minutes.
Some popular smooth jazz artists grouped by the instruments they play:
Saxophone: Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright, Gato Barbieri, Walter Beasley, Steve Cole, Candy Dulfer, Richard Elliot, Kenny G, Euge Groove, Everette Harp, Warren Hill, George Howard, Jessy J, Boney James, Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Najee, David Sanborn, Paul Taylor, Grover Washington, Jr., Kirk Whalum
Guitar: Marc Antoine, George Benson, Norman Brown, Paul Brown, Larry Carlton, Joyce Cooling, Russ Freeman, Paul Jackson, Jr., Denny Jiosa, Earl Klugh, Chuck Loeb, Pat Metheny, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Steve Oliver, Doc Powell, Lee Ritenour, Chris Strandring, Peter White, Patrick Yandall
Drummers: Harvey Mason, Gota Yashiki
Bassists: Brian Bromberg, Stanley Clarke, Nathan East, Marcus Miller, Wayman Tisdale, Gerald Veasley
Trumpeters: Greg Adams, Herb Alpert, Chris Botti, Rick Braun, Chuck Mangione
Pianists/Keyboardists: Bob Baldwin, David Benoit, Alex Bugnon, Brian Culbertson, George Duke, Dave Grusin, Paul Hardcastle, Bob James, Gregg Karukas, Ramsey Lewis, Jeff Lorber, Keiko Matsui, Philippe Saisse, Joe Sample, Oli Silk, Kevin Toney
I should note that many of these smooth jazz artists also cross over to other genres, such as traditional jazz and urban jazz.