Smooth jazz is a genre that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, combining elements of jazz, R&B, funk, and pop music. It is characterized by its mellow and soothing sound, often featuring melodic saxophone solos, groovy basslines, and polished production techniques. Smooth jazz has evolved over time to incorporate various influences while maintaining its signature laid-back vibe.
The origins of smooth jazz can be traced back to the fusion movement of the 1960s and 1970s when artists like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock began experimenting with blending jazz with other genres. However, it wasn't until the late 1970s that smooth jazz as a distinct genre started gaining popularity. Artists such as Grover Washington Jr., George Benson, and Bob James were at the forefront of this movement.
One key characteristic of smooth jazz is its emphasis on accessibility and commercial appeal. Unlike traditional or avant-garde jazz, which can sometimes be complex or challenging for casual listeners, smooth jazz aims to create a more relaxed and easy-listening experience. This accessibility has made it popular among a wide audience beyond traditional jazz enthusiasts.
Over time, smooth jazz incorporated elements from different musical styles such as soul, funk, and even pop music. This evolution led to the rise of crossover artists who achieved mainstream success while still staying true to the genre's core sound. Kenny G is one such artist who became synonymous with smooth jazz in the late 1980s with his melodic saxophone playing style.
Another significant artist associated with smooth jazz is David Sanborn. His albums like "Hideaway" (1980) showcased his virtuosic saxophone skills combined with catchy melodies and infectious grooves. The album received critical acclaim and helped solidify Sanborn's position as one of the leading figures in the genre.
Smooth jazz also had an impact on the global music scene by influencing other genres and artists.