Smooth jazz finds new way to reach audiences

With shifts in the commercial music industry away from smooth jazz, musicians are finding new niches for smooth jazz such as cruises.

Twenty years ago, of course, smooth jazz wasn’t a code to be cracked so much as a wave to be caught. Like most species of pop, it felt ubiquitous and maybe a little insidious, asking nothing more (or less) of you than surrender. During the summer of 1993, Kenny G had a Top 40 single, his second such hit from the inescapable album Breathless. Smooth jazz had an enviable infrastructure then; even a small American city was likely to have a dedicated radio station.

What it didn’t have was cachet, critical regard or any trace of cool. (Kenny G has recently taken pains to show that he’s in on the joke.) This was a music forged by market considerations, less a coherent genre than a commercial format.

Nate Chinen, “Smooth Sailing in a Sea of Evolution”, The New York Times, 5 July 2013.

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