SMOOTH JAZZ

The aging of the Baby Boomers has played a major role in the development of a number of genres, most notably Adult Contemporary, new age music, and smooth jazz. While jazz has always possessed a softer side, smooth jazz evolved out of the fusion movement of the 1960s and 1970s. From fusion—built on the intermingling of jazz and a wide range of styles, from the bossa nova to progressive rock—smooth jazz appropriated the rhythmic groove and instrumental riffing (as opposed to improvisation). The gritty, funkier aspects of many such hybrids, however, have been de-emphasized in favor of more polished arrangements. The dance-oriented sensibilities of the generation accustomed to disco and funk undoubtedly contributed to the notion that a steady backbeat could be tamed. Many smooth jazz recordings possess multi-layered textures typically featuring synthesizers, guitars, and horns (saxophones, trumpets, etc.) to create a sound geared more to the subconscious rather than the intellectual domain.

The pop crossover success enjoyed by guitarist George Benson in the mid-1970s—particularly Breezin’ (Warner Bros. 2919; 1976; #1), Weekend in L.A. (Warner Bros. 3139; 1978; #5), and Give Me the Night (Warner Bros. 3453; 1980; #3)—provided the template for the newly emerging genre. Kenny G is arguably the style’s major star; hit albums such as Duotones (Arista 8427; 1986; #6), Silhouette (Arista 8457; 1988; #8), and Breathless (Arista 18646; 1992; #2) drew legions of new fans to smooth jazz. Other notable artists whose work falls—at least in part—within this field include Fattburger (Livin’ Large; 1994), Fourplay (Fourplay; Warner Bros. 26656; 1991; #97), George Howard (A Nice Place To Be; MCA 5855; 1986; #109), and the Yellowjackets (Mirage A Trois; Warner Bros. 23813; #145).

Back to Jazz Back to Table of Contents