It is still being debated whether Smooth Jazz is a valid sub genre of Jazz. But let us discuss it anyway to understand what is considered to be smooth jazz by the international community of jazz enthusiast.
It is definitely developped in the United States in the early 1970s and continues to developed until now. This style is actually an expansion from Jazz Fusion.
Elements which contribute to the forming of this styles include the R&B, funk, rock and pop music. Instrumental pop music which is performed with jazz style is known as contemporary jazz. And this also plays a big contribution to Jazz fusion.
What makes a difference is that Smooth Jazz is considerably a background music. While contemporary jazz is the performance which needs undivided attention from the listeners.
Smooth jazz is generally played in down tempo which is between 90 to 105 beat per minute. What makes it to be considered as a background music is that it commonly uses programmed rhythm or basically a recognizable pattern with or without samples.
Instruments which lead the melody for the music arrangements are usually saxophones, or guitar. This does not annul the possibility of other instruments taking the lead in this style.
Early recordings were records produced by Creed Taylor –from CTI Records- who worked together with Wes Montgomery a jazz guitarist. They come up with albums such as A day in the life, Down Here on the Ground, and Road Song in 1967 and 1968.
Just for example, lets watch how The Beatles performs the original version of A day in the Life.
And this is how Wes Montgomery articulate the piece in Smooth Jazz style.
Now, after hearing how Wes Montgomery played the tune we can directly recall the musicians using this kind of atmosphere, right? George Benson, Kenny G, David Sanborn, Joe Smaple, David Benoit, are only a few of the names of artists known to use this style.
Entering 2007 and forward, looking at the names of artists in within this genre are Bob James, David Sanborn , Jeff Lorber, Pieces of a Dream, Chick Corea, Jeanne Ricks and many more we can see that many artists not only focused on contemporary jazz. Their name became known to be established in the Smooth Jazz.
So this is actually a starting point to understand what the whole concept is.
I will not discuss the development of Smooth Jazz in Radio just yet. Because it is a whole lot of journey to grasp. But just bear with me, I will try to take it all in and then I will provide the juice. So, stay tuned for more :)