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The History Of Jazz - Part 10
- Smooth Jazz

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The History Of Jazz - Part 10
- Smooth Jazz

We finalise our look at the History Of Jazz with the music that we listen to today i.e. Smooth Jazz, purists will say that that it doesn't have much to do with the roots of Jazz i.e. Blues and Gospel and is more akin to Adult Contemporary, but any music that has the word 'Jazz ' included in the title keeps this great American music genre moving forward and perhaps some of you who are Smooth Jazz fans may want to take a look back at the beginings and progression of this creative and expressive artform.

Being a jazz purist myself, i.e. someone who has studied the History Of Jazz in some depth and listened to many recordings of the pioneers of jazz and the innovators of new trends and progressed nowadays as a Jazz Radio Producer and Host with a weekly marquee channel showcasing the latest Smooth Jazz releases for 27 years I think I have a decent platform from which to assess the current trend and offer a fair evaluation.

The current global pandemic has seen many, many new artists throw their hats into the Smooth Jazz ring and the number of new releases this week as I write this piece is 28 tracks Going For Ads this week (11/01/21 to 18/01/21) compared to 7 tracks this time last year. Many of you will remember that new releases grounded to a halt in the 3rd week of November and nothing really happened until the second week in January, now with lockdowns and musicians stuck at home the number of new releases is staggering.

Having said that the methodology of releasing a new single nowadays is so much simpler than 20-30 years ago when artists recorded a CD, had to get it pressed, have artwork done and arrange distribution through the usual outlets. Record shops were still en vogue in part !

Now the landscape has changed and artists can record just one track and release it, maybe through a Record Label, through a Servicing Agent or promote it themselves via Social Media. They can post it to ITunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and others to retail it or even sell it on their own websites, the process from a Marketing Perspective of Recording to Selling has dramatically changed.

( However as my Personal Notes No. 923 with Marketing Tips For Jazz Professionals article suggested, many artists are releasing music for the wrong reasons and losing money in the process.)

So what is Smooth Jazz and what does it comprise of ?

Having hosted a radio show for the past 27 years the highest percentage of players are saxophonists, then guitarists, then keyboardists and the rest, the concept is primarily Easy Listening and trying to appeal to an Adult Audience, I don't think we have too many listeners under 30 and those old enough to have heard Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis wouldn't find too much sparkle in the Smooth Jazz genre. Indeed I question how many of today's Smooth Jazz Artists have spent any time researching the History Of Jazz and the musicians ?

One thing is for certain is that more and more artists are being attracted to the trend and many are entering the game much much too late IMHO, as I mentioned before the 'cream' has alreay been gleaned and all that there is left in the genre is some 'milk' and if the current pandemic and subsequent fallout mean a slow return to performing live again for the artists to suppliment their recordings, then truly professional Smooth Jazz artists may have to turn to teaching, playing as session people or a completely different career altogether. If they are relying on music sales at £0.009 earned per track stream (@ Amazon 10/20) which is the best payout deal of the main companies. artists would need to have 970 streams paid for to gain 'one hour of the minimum wage in the UK'.

So add up the cost of your production, maybe a servicing agent and adding to your usual sales outlets, this doesn't factor in the Artist's Social Media Time to try and market the tracks.

So today's Smooth Jazz is a totally different kind of music in an 'Instant World' with 'Data Overload', there is no doubt that the artists presenting the music are very talented in general, but I would suggest that what we are hearing is very similar and there are only a handful of tracks in the past 27 years that stand out for me. I always think that if you can remember a part of a song after just one listen AFTER IT HAS FINISHED it was a strong song. Another ACID TEST is how many of the songs that you hear today will be remembered in one year from now ?

So Smooth Jazz is the current trend and fashionable, how many will stay with it when the next great trend comes along, it is true that there were so many incarnations of Fusion Jazz that many fans were split under the 'same sub-genre title' i.e. Fusion Jazz, however I go back to a point I made earlier, if the word ' Jazz ' is in the title and it attracts people to the wonderful genre, then long may it continue.

Music is a very subjective artform and if you enjoy what you are hearing, then go for it, however I encourage you to learn more about the artist who is performing, perhaps delve into some back catalogue by them and maybe you will discover another 'string to their bow' which you were unaware of.

Most of all I encourage you to listen to some of the pioneers of jazz like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and maybe vocalists like Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, these artists are the substance of jazz and responsible for its evolvement, then try and compare what they produced with what we hear today and see if you can find any clues as to where today's artists obtained their inspiration from.

* Also see :- Louis Armstrong Biography
* Also see :- Dave Brubeck Biography
* Also see :- John Hammond Biography
* Also see :- Nica de Koenigswarter Biography
* Also see :- 52nd Street
* Also see :- Tin Pan Alley

Wes George (former Sony Jazz webmaster)
Email : info@jazznet247.net
Facebook : www.facebook.com/streetjazzblogpage6

 
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