Smooth Jazz- A Brief Introduction To

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.




What Happens When Two Sound Waves Collide

I guess you have to be a real audio techie to read this post, but I think it’s interesting stuff.

Most sound sources produce energy at multiple frequencies and different sound sources often combine. When this happens it is the more complex, composite, waveform that we hear. This combination of different overtones and sound changes the resulting wave shape. The term interfere or superposition is used to describe what happens when waves pass through each other or are superimposed.

If the two sound waves that collide are exactly in phase with each other they add together and produce a sound wave that is twice as loud. If they are exactly (180°) out of phase, they cancel each other out and the result is silence. If they two waves differ in amplitude the new sound wave is different in amplitude from either of them.

Let’s consider a real world situation where phase cancellation can occur. Suppose you place the speakers on a P.A. system too close to a live sound source such as a set of drums. The speakers might cancel out some of the sound of the drums by overlapping the natural sound of the drums with the amplified sound. The illustration below shows what happens when sound waves that are exactly in phase, 180° out of phase, and of different amplitudes, collide. Sources: Real World Digital Audio by Peter Kirn (Peach Pit Press, 2006, and