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Smooth Jazz top examples


Theo Verelst

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Hi, I was wondering if some people here would have instant associations with being asked for which smooth Jazz acts/albums should be considered "top". Clearly I mean Jazz and smooth, not something of the new kind that makes claims to replace the style. I liked to listen to smooth Jazz radio (in Amsterdam mostly) years ago, but I think there was no presenter calling out the titles of the songs or the performers.

 

I know it's possibly cheesy, but I kind of like a well done SJ production and was planning on doing one "in the Kurzweil" or at least using some of the recovered sound I've worked on in a multi-track recording. Maybe in certain senses there'd be a "smooth Jazz" epiano preset and example song with some of those double bass lines coming out of the auto-accompaniment, but as it is I don't have that, or would wonder what New Age wonderfulness would be part of thus sounds, rendering them unusable..

 

So if I'd like it a bit funky and not too afraid of Jazz chord changes, what example music is there ? Thanks.

 

 

T.V.

 

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Yellowjackets, I suppose. Rippingtons maybe.

 

I would include Steps Ahead, but their music fails to put me to sleep, so I don't know if they can be classified as smooth jazz. :D

Moe

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For a great CD of actual jazz that might qualify as mostly "smooth", try Stolen Moments by Lee Ritenour. It's jazz that jazz enthusiasts can appreciate, but also listenable to people who aren't immersed in jazz. It's one of my "starter kit" CDs for folks who think they might be interested in jazz, or people who'd like to drag someone else along into it. Oops, I mean, "inspire".

 

I'm not a big fan of Ritenour's fusion (or much any fusion, other than the early masters like Weather Report, Herbie, etc.) But I really like this CD, especially the title cut. It's a bunch of often overlooked "standards", lovingly arranged and performed by some pretty hot young turks.

 

But it's not the kind of stuff that airs in the US "smooth jazz" radio stations, which is mostly stuff that makes me nauseous anyway (epitomized by Kenny G).

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I would include some Sade in there. Even if it is a bit more "poppy", I still hear it in smooth jazz playlists. Also, David Sanscious, David Arkenstone, David Lanz, Vangelis, JMJ, and many others ... but my tastes are weird too. lol

 

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Certainly CTI era stuff: Bob James, George Benson, Seawind, Grover Washington Jr. Some consider Pat Metheny's "American Garage" & "Offramp" stuff as smooth jazz - just don't mention that to Pat.

 

Generally notable "smooth jazz" guys were legit jazzers who could genuinely play. A shout out to my piano instructor, Peter Horvath, who had a #1 smooth jazz record on the radio in 1995 (back when there was terrestrial smooth jazz programming) - and he's a legit badass.

 

There is of course a large collection of flotsam and jetsam, which is to be avoided at all costs. Push play on drum machine, noodle some faux bluesy licks over two chords, insert ii-V-iii-Vi as bridge, lather, rinse, repeat, and bounce track to publish. Sigh.

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Right. I stand corrected a bit, I played Stolen Moments (the song, not the album) in the past, Sade is good, I got a CD with decent Benson songs,. Probably I'm not experienced or interested enough to take Metheny or Yellowjackets to a proper smooth jazz level, I need to think about that.

 

I just thought of another one I did know (and played): David Sanborn. That should tie down loose ships and cover the genre with enough Jazz knowledge ! A bit more thinking, and maybe just settle with a Jazz song I like in a "cool" version with some pop-y production on the rhythms.

 

T.

 

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When people say "smooth jazz" I've always felt they are referring to the radio format, not a real style of music that developed organically. Once the format took hold and turned into an income stream for musicians (and record co. executives), of course it took off. It's just a variant of r&b done with more jazz sensibilities (more sophisticated harmony mostly). Unlike jazz, you could scribble bluesy clichés over hackneyed drum machine beats and get airplay with not much effort, leading to a lot of IMO pretty lame stuff out there. But you also had bands like Fourplay and guys like Lee Ritenour & Dave Sanborn who could really play, so there is quite a lot of very tasty stuff out there that happens to qualify as "smooth jazz." (Please assume a big "IMO" plastered across this post!!).

 

Some of the previous examples cited in this thread Tom Coster, Yellowjackets, Pat Meth are to me nowhere near "smooth jazz", certainly in terms of what the radio format honchos demanded (and they did demand, thanks to Broadcast Architecture). Yellowjackets in particular went with a much freer and jazzier sound and writing style.

 

Now that the radio format has died, you see a lot of the smooth guys touring as "packages" i.e., one rhythm section backing up multiple artists. There still seems to be touring work for those guys, but I'm guessing that the budgets for recording are not what they were back in the day.

 

Sorry for the blathering... we now return you to the Theo thread at hand... good luck with your "smooth" project my friend!

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Reezekeys -

 

I agree with what you've written. There's a special place in my heart for smooth jazz...a smooth jazz band convinced me to pick up my instrument again after my brutal divorce.

 

The problem with vocabulary is of course the need to clarify definitions. Music genre labels are notoriously ambiguous. Miles' "Human Nature" was in rotation on smooth jazz radio with Fourplay's "Bali Run", right along with Kenny Gorelick. So what's in a label?

 

Certainly a large bit of the genre today can be described as "instrumental R&B".

 

But you could spin Chris Potter's "Invisible Man" or Kenny Wheeler's "Ma Belle Helene" and either would offer Theo a good challenge for his "smooth" project.

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The problem with vocabulary is of course the need to clarify definitions. Music genre labels are notoriously ambiguous. Miles' "Human Nature" was in rotation on smooth jazz radio with Fourplay's "Bali Run", right along with Kenny Gorelick. So what's in a label?

 

Certainly a large bit of the genre today can be described as "instrumental R&B".

 

But you could spin Chris Potter's "Invisible Man" or Kenny Wheeler's "Ma Belle Helene" and either would offer Theo a good challenge for his "smooth" project.

IMO it's useless for anyone to try and define "smooth" jazz or even jazz in general. Everybody is going to have an opinion. To a bebopper, smooth jazz might be any kind of instrumental music with a backbeat. "Jazz" can mean anyone from Al Hirt to Albert Ayler depending on who you ask.

 

For me, as I said, "smooth jazz" connotes the radio format and its fairly restrictive musical parameters. I remember hearing that Broadcast Architecture had a list of "dont's" if you wanted to get the tune played on smooth jazz radio. Human Nature happened to fit their parameters, as did a few Pat Metheny tunes. I feel safe in saying neither of these artists consciously tried to tailor their music for this radio format while a lot of other true "smooth jazzers" did.

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David Benoit, guitarist Norman Brown have some pretty good stuff.

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See, now we are running up against what the definition of smooth jazz is. To me the main definition is "insubstantial."

 

Some of these artists are WAY too good to fit that definition. :cop:

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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See, now we are running up against what the definition of smooth jazz is. To me the main definition is "insubstantial."

 

I don't have a good association with the phrase "smooth jazz" at all. The first phrase I pair with that is "Oh jeez, I just threw up in my mouth a little."

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Earl Klugh, Michael Franks, Grover Washington, Steve Kahn, David Sanborn, Brecker Brothers

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People only say "It's a free country" when they're doing something shitty-Demetri Martin

 

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