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A Shallow Grave for Smooth Jazz

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: arts, music, jazz, smooth jazz, Popmatters,

Smooth jazz is dead, reports Will Layman in Popmatters, citing the format shift at a couple of major-market radio stations (in New York and D.C.) as evidence of the genre’s demise. “Dentists in the two most powerful cities in America are panicking,” he writes, seizing the chance for some easy gags before settling into a surprisingly well-rounded and illuminating look at the form, from its sonic origins in the late ’60s to its naming by a focus group participant to its “overriding aesthetic of cheesiness” and its “explicitly economic” inspiration in recent years.

I suspect it will take more than a presumptuous obituary to draw a death rattle from Kenny G’s horn. After all, the Yellowjackets have a CD coming out next week, and elevators and hotel lobbies everywhere have dead air to fill. But Layman’s treatise is fun and engaging and even a bit provocative, floating the notion that smooth jazz may have actually fulfilled a noble purpose during its pathetic life: “It likely served to bring some listeners to the real thing, giving them the courage to like Miles Davis or Sonny Rollins.”