I have not exactly been feeling well the last few days and it was like pushing a rope up a hill to try and get this out. Besides, I promised I would reveal my theme for the next few months for Two for Tuesday today, and until about twenty minutes ago I wasn’t sure what that was going to be. Then I got to thinking about my last freebie day, where I picked from my rather extensive jazz collection, and the good reception that smooth jazz got, and I had my theme.
What is smooth jazz? Well, it’s a combination of fusion (jazz and rock), popular music, and rhythm & blues, with elements of Latin, funk, electronic, New Age, chill, lounge, and other forms. It lacks much of the complexity of true jazz or fusion, which is both its main criticism and its main strength. Some dismiss it as pop or easy-listening music with elements of jazz rather than true jazz or fusion, even though many of its practitioners have considerable jazz chops. You could say that it’s the age-old struggle between commercial success and musical integrity.
Anyway, here’s some smooth jazz to get you started.
- Jeff Golub, “On The Wes Side” In addition to having a prolific solo career, guitarist Jeff Golub was the leader of the band Avenue Blue, and spent a few years backing Rod Stewart. Many smooth jazz guitarists see Wes Montgomery as an influence, as it was Wes who was one of the first jazz artists to go “pop,” as it were.
- Candy Dulfer, “Smooth” Saxophonist Candy Dulfer is the daughter of Dutch jazz saxophonist Hans Dulfer. Her first single, “Lily Was Here” featuring Dave Stewart on guitar, was a quick hit in 1989.
- Brian Culbertson, “Sensuality” Multi-instrumentalist Culbertson hails from Decatur, Illinois and attended DePaul University, where he recorded his first CD, which got him his first recording contract.
- Paul Hardcastle, “Soft Rain” British composer and multi-instrumentalist Hardcastle has recorded a number of albums for various series, including the “Chill Lounge” series, from which this was taken.
- Ronny Jordan, “After Hours” British guitarist Ronny Jordan made a name for himself in both smooth jazz and acid jazz, which combines jazz, funk, soul, and disco.
- Joe Sample, “Night Flight” Keyboardist Joe Sample is considered a pioneer in smooth jazz, and was an original member of the Jazz Crusaders, later just The Crusaders (for whom Larry Carlton played).
- Bob James, “Night Crawler” Keyboardist Bob James is also a smooth jazz pioneer and has playe with the band Fourplay for the last 25 years.
- Grover Washington, Jr., “Winelight” Yet another smooth jaz pioneer, you’re probably familiar with his recordding of “Just The Two Of Us” with singer Bill Withers.
- George Benson, “Breezin'” Guitarist/vocalist George Benson’s 1976 album Breezin’ is one of the earliest examples of a smooth jazz album. It went triple platinum and included the single “This Masquerade,” which reached #10 on the Hot 100, #3 on the R&B chart, and #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
- Spiro Gyra, “Morning Dance” “Spirogyra” is a form of green algae that founder Jay Beckenstein learned about in college. Formed in Buffalo, New York (where our very own Michele once worked) in 1974, they’ve released over 30 albums and sold over 10 million units, and are considered a pioneer of the genre.
Anyway, join me tomorrow and every Tuesday for the foreseeable future as we explore the world of smooth jazz! That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for Labor Day, 2018.