[JPL] Boston Globe article on "sm**th jazz"

davispro at mindspring.com davispro at mindspring.com
Fri Jul 21 11:25:08 EDT 2006

My watchword is TOLERANCE...and my mantra is "One man's garbage is another man's feast."

This life if far too crazy to put someone down for liking what they truly like.

A famous jazzman, whose name escapes me now (help me out someone) once defined jazz as "any music made by a jazz musician."  By that it seems to me that if you go about your business with the attitude that you are indeed making jazz then it's jazz you are making.  You as the creator of the music will hopefully be satisfied and if others resonate to it, great.  If others don't then they don't have to consume it. 

Freedom to be/create/etc...Freedom to reject/embrace/be ambivilant...but about all TOLERANCE.

Russ Davis

-----Original Message-----
>From: Arturo <arturo893 at qwest.net>
>Sent: Jul 20, 2006 5:09 PM
>To: "jazzproglist at jazzweek. com" <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
>Subject: [JPL] Boston Globe article on  "sm**th jazz"
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>Love it or hate it, smooth jazz is here to stay
>By Sarah Rodman, BOSTON GLOBE
>Inside Bay Area
>CALL HIM POP. Call him jazz. Call him, if you must, a smooth
>operator. But whatever you do, don't call the music that trumpeter
>Chris Botti makes smooth jazz.
>"We're not smooth jazz," Botti says, curtly.
>Try telling that to the radio programmers who routinely put his cool
>compositions and covers into rotation, and the listeners who have
>scooped up more than a million copies of his discs, including his
>most recent effort, "To Love Again: The Duets."
>Botti tries to be understanding. "To about 98 percent of the general
>public, if you put an instrument on the top and they can sort of
>figure out 'Well, you're playing in a little tiny club and it sounds
>like a math test' or 'You're playing bigger venues and it's
>pleasing,' then the second one is always going to be smooth jazz,"
>he says. "It doesn't matter what's going on underneath."
>Indeed, a glance at smooth jazz radio playlists reveals a much wider
>collection of artists than you might guess. Of course,
>instrumentalists such as Botti, saxophonist Dave Koz, and
>keyboardist Brian Culbertson are staples. But so are plenty of
>vocalists and singer-songwriters: Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae,
>India.Arie, Michael McDonald, Anita Baker, Alicia Keys, Luther
>Vandross, and Botti's former employer Sting. And the fact is, some
>of those artists — especially those who'd never be mistaken for jazz
>musicians — have no problem being adopted by the smooth jazz
>community, so long as it gets people listening to their music. Radio
>play is radio play, after all.
>And yet, regardless of the music's popularity, or how many big-
>selling acts now fall under the genre's umbrella, many artists and
>fans, especially those who fancy themselves jazz purists, bristle at
>the very mention of smooth jazz. Others are simply resigned. George
>Benson — the virtuoso guitarist with unimpeachable straight-ahead
>jazz bona fides has, over the years, achieved a certain equanimity
>about the label. "It's here," the 63-year-old says with a
>laugh, "and you can't do nothing about it."
>Smooth jazz's background
>Music fitting the description of smooth jazz existed long before the
>term ever did. Serious jazz musicians such as Benson, Bob James,
>David Sanborn, Herb Alpert, and Chuck Mangione played what would now
>be labeled smooth jazz as far back as the'70s. And, yes, fans ate it
>"The music just got more and more popular and so a whole radio
>format formed around it and they had to call it something because
>people like labels," Culbertson says. "You couldn't call it a
>traditional jazz station because it's not. They couldn't call it pop
>because there's not a lot of vocals. So it was like, 'Hmmm, the
>music's kind of smooth sounding and there's jazz influence — hey,
>let's put those two words together.'"
>That's exactly what happened, according to Frank Cody, a former
>radio consultant who deserves the credit — or the blame, depending
>on your viewpoint — for the term "smooth jazz."
>"It was actually a listener," Cody concedes. In the early '90s, as a
>member of consulting firm Broadcast Architecture, Cody conducted
>focus groups. One Chicago woman strung together the infamous words
>when grappling for a description of a song snippet. "At that
>moment," Cody says, "light bulbs went off over everybody's heads." A
>format was born.
>Around the same time, Billboard instituted its "Contemporary Jazz"
>chart to separate popular smooth-jazz artists and harder-edged
>fusion groups from straight-ahead, or traditional, jazz artists. The
>reason? Smooth jazz sales were beginning to dwarf the traditional
>stuff. "The concern was that it would be easy for a smooth jazz
>artist such as Chuck Mangione or a Spyro Gyra to outsell traditional
>artist Dexter Gordon," says Billboard's director of charts and
>senior analyst Geoff Mayfield.
>But what is smooth jazz? Ask 10 different people, you'll get 10
>different answers.
>"It's almost like the Supreme Court justice's definition of
>pornography: I know it when I hear it," says Mayfield with a laugh.
>The fundamental difference between smooth jazz and traditional jazz
>lies in the chief instrumentalist's approach to improvisation.
>Typically, at least on record, smooth jazz musicians just don't
>improvise. They often prefer to serve as a surrogate
>voice, "singing" the melody line over a simple pop or R&B groove.
>Play Kenny G's "Songbird" followed by John Coltrane's jazz
>classic "My Favorite Things" back to back and you'll get the
>picture. When it comes to vocalists, it's the difference between the
>mellow phrasing and textures of a Sade or a Norah Jones versus the
>energetic scatting of, say, Ella Fitzgerald. As the artists found on
>smooth jazz playlists make clear, the "smooth" is usually more
>important than the "jazz."
>"There's a quality to the vocals, a soulfulness to the vocals and an
>equal soulfulness to the instrumentals," Koz says. "Whether it's a
>vocal song or an instrumental song, it's melody driven and generally
>has some sort of rhythmic pulse on the bottom."
>However it's described, almost all of the artists now loosely
>included in the category would tell you that they didn't set out to
>make smooth jazz. They created music from the heart, and the format
>abducted them.
>Which is exactly what smooth jazz programmers have been doing since
>the format's inception: gradually adopting artists and songs that
>dash the conventional image of smooth jazz as that blissed-out
>instrumental tootling you hear during massages or root canals.
>So while Kenny G's lyrical yet much maligned "Songbird" may be one
>of the most well-known smooth jazz songs ever recorded, appropriated
>smooth jazz hits now include pop and R&B songs with vocals such as
>Benson's "On Broadway," Sade's "Smooth Operator," and Steely
>Dan's "Hey Nineteen."
>Convincing listeners that if they like these songs then, by default,
>they like smooth jazz is an uphill battle, however. And musicians
>usually take one of three approaches: resist, tolerate, or embrace.
>"I could say to someone my last two CDs are all done basically live
>with an orchestra and it's way more coming from Miles Davis and Chet
>Baker than smooth jazz," says Botti, a resister. "But all people
>know is that it's smooth, so it translates into 'makes them feel
>relaxed.' " Because of that, listeners don't associate it with the
>more complex forms of bebop or fusion. "Most people think Sade is a
>badass jazz musician, and I love Sade. But is she a jazz musician?
>Heck no. So what do you do?"
>Embracing the genre
>Koz, meanwhile, embraces the genre. Known as the "ambassador of
>smooth jazz," he started a cottage industry to promote it. In
>addition to recording a half-dozen successful albums, Koz headlines
>popular summer and holiday tours with simpatico artists, co-founded
>the Rendezvous Entertainment record label with Cody — home to smooth
>jazz stars such as Wayman Tisdale and Kirk Whalum — and hosts a
>morning radio show and weekly syndicated program devoted to the
>music. He's mounting his second smooth jazz cruise to the Mexican
>Riviera — on which Botti has played in the past — this November.
>"Maybe about 10 years ago I stopped letting that bother me," Koz
>says of dismissals of the genre as "elevator music." "For a lot of
>jazz critics, anything that is outside of that traditional box is
>not good or not worthy of attention. I recognize where that lives,
>but the most important critic to me is the listener."
>These days, it seems that the less jazzy an artist is, the more
>likely he is to accept his inclusion in the smooth jazz pantheon.
>Pop singer Michael McDonald says he was thrilled when smooth jazz
>stations starting playing cuts from his two recent collections of
>Motown covers.
>"It's a wonderful thing," says the former Doobie Brother, who has
>toured with Koz and Culbertson. "I mean, anytime that somebody's
>playing your music for an audience that's out there it can only be —
>I mean, thank God for smooth jazz radio for artists like myself."
>British newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae is also grateful that her new
>single "Put Your Records On" — acoustic soul in the vein of Erykah
>Badu or India.Arie — has already made a splash stateside on the
>smooth jazz charts. In her home country, she gets spun on the rock
>and soul outposts of the BBC.
>"Wherever you go, people seem to hear things differently according
>to what culture or place it is," says the 27-year-old
>chanteuse. "I'm happy just to get played."
>Of course, getting played can mean the difference between selling
>records or not. Smooth jazz artists typically outsell traditional
>artists, usually because they get more airplay on more stations.
>Traditional jazz outlets have shrunk over the years while smooth
>jazz outlets have expanded.
>"I will say we definitely sell a lot more than straight-ahead jazz,
>that is true," says Culbertson with just a touch of gloating. "We're
>selling 100,000 or more, they're not even coming close. They're
>lucky if they're selling 15,000."
>And the fans don't just buy albums, they come out to hear the music
>"Straight-ahead jazz is a harder sell," says Fred Taylor,
>entertainment director of Sculler's Jazz Club in Cambridge,
>Mass. "All of the artists that we presented in the early years of
>smooth jazz I keep rebooking, and they are all big sellers," he says
>of acts such as Foreplay, Richard Eliot and Koz.
>Taylor, known as a hard-core jazz purist himself, says that he tries
>to instruct the jazz police to be less elitist about the format
>since it helps subsidize the traditional acts that he brings in.
>Tinkering with style
>Benson, who's at work on an album with fellow smooth jazz star Al
>Jarreau, certainly is. In fact, he admits that he tinkered with his
>style over the years to make himself more commercially viable.
>"There was a time when in the jazz world I didn't have a solid
>identity for the jazz masses," he says. "I couldn't fill up the
>clubs. So I had to do something that would. ... And when I started
>getting hit records, they were records that were oriented on the pop
>thing and the R&B thing and I used my jazz experience to enhance
>those, to give them some pizazz."
>But even when the music has pizazz, as much of it does — especially
>live when the instrumentalists engage in more inventive
>improvisation — the smooth jazz label itself is still a turn-off to
>"If we could change the name from smooth jazz to something that had
>a little bit more of a hip quality to it that would get the critics
>off our back, I think all the artists that have been around for a
>while would say let's do it!" Koz says with a laugh. "The problem is
>that radio stations have spent millions upon millions of dollars
>over 18 to 20 years branding themselves as smooth jazz stations, so
>you can't walk away from that."
>Even Botti grudgingly admits that "ultimately smooth jazz is a radio
>format that began with a lot of narrowness and in the last few years
>has opened substantially to other kinds of music that embraces
>"Even Slash has a smooth jazz hit called 'Obsession Confession' — so
>there," Koz says of the Guns N' Roses guitarist's surprise 1996
>hit. "We are an equal opportunity employer in the smooth jazz
>community. If you're Slash and you're wearing that big top hat and
>you've got a good song, we'll take you."
>This week's sponsor: Lisa Hilton's MIDNIGHT IN MANHATTAN
>A sinfully sultry mix of originals and standards'' is what JazzTrenzz reviewer Karl Stober had to say about composer/pianist Lisa Hilton's latest release, 'MIDNIGHT IN MANHATTAN', (Ruby Slippers Productions).  Inspired by a late New York night, she has once again created a recording full of evocative moods, strong melodies and expressive arrangements.  Creating a new band  for these sessions, 'Midnight In Manhattan' also features famed Brubeck saxman Bobby Militello, John Friday on drums and long time bassist Reggie McBride.  Eighteen-time Grammy winning engineer/producer Al Schmitt recorded and mixed with Hilton in Studio A/Capitol Studios keeping a natural sound that compliments the straight ahead tracks. 
>Trained in contemporary and classical piano, Hilton contemplated jazz greats for inspiration.  ''I've always been inspired by the melodies of our great American songwriters of the 30's, the rhythmic hooks of classic jazz of the 50's and a bit of our blues from the South'' comments Hilton, ''but I do think that jazz can be inspired by this musical heritage and still sound cool today.''
>Hilton's music continues to earn numerous awards and honors.  Her music is distributed by Navarre and is available at most retail and online stores.  Her website is: www.lisahiltonmusic.com. 
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