What Is Smooth Jazz?


Quick Answer

Smooth jazz is a form of instrumental music that draws from R&B, pop, jazz, Latin, funk and fusion influences. It first gained notoriety as a commercialized genre in the 1980s, although the playing style dates back to the 1970s

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What Is Smooth Jazz?
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Full Answer

Often characterized by mellow guitars, electronic keyboards and slick urban grooves, smooth jazz grew out of the jazz fusion movement that took hold in the early 1970s. Many jazz musicians were experimenting with electric instruments at the time, integrating popular rock, funk and disco styles into their playing. Guitarist George Benson is considered an early adopter of the smooth approach. In the 1980s saxophonist Kenny G. enjoyed enormous commercial success with the release of "Songbird," a soft rock instrumental that typified the sound most people associate with the smooth genre.

Radio stations such as WNUA in Chicago started programming smooth jazz around the clock, and it became popular in nearly every major American city. Smooth jazz eventually came under fire from critics due to its repetitive lines and lack of musical integrity. It was most negatively cast as the type of background music often heard in elevators or dentists' offices. Still popular today, smooth jazz is practiced by the likes of artists such as Mindi Abair, David Benoit and Chris Botti.

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