Smooth jazz is a genre of commercially oriented crossover jazz that became dominant in the 1980s and early 1990s.
HistorySmooth jazz is a commercially oriented, crossover jazz which came to prominence in the 1980s, displacing the more venturesome jazz fusion from which it emerged. It avoids the improvisational "risk-taking" of jazz fusion, emphasizing melodic form. Much of the music was initially "a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B".
The genre arose in the mid-1970s in the United States as "smooth radio", and was not termed "smooth jazz" until the 1980s. The earliest smooth jazz music appearing in the 1970s includes the 1975 album Touch by saxophonist John Klemmer, the song "Breezin'" as performed by guitarist George Benson in 1976, the 1977 instrumental composition "Feels So Good" by flugelhorn player Chuck Mangione, and jazz fusion group Spyro Gyra's instrumental "Morning Dance", released in 1979.
Notable artistsSmooth jazz grew in popularity in the 1980s as Anita Baker, Sade, Al Jarreau and Grover Washington Jr. released multiple hit songs.
Critical and public receptionThe smooth jazz genre experienced a backlash exemplified by critical complaints about as the "bland" sound of top-selling saxophonist Kenny G, whose popularity peaked with his 1992 album Breathless.
Music reviewer George Graham argues that the "so-called 'smooth jazz' sound of people like Kenny G has none of the fire and creativity that marked the best of the fusion scene during its heyday in the 1970s".
Digby Fairweather, before the start of UK jazz station theJazz, denounced the change to a smooth jazz format on defunct radio station 102.2 Jazz FM, stating that the owners GMG Radio were responsible for the "attempted rape and (fortunately abortive) re-definition of the music — is one that no true jazz lover within the boundaries of the M25 will ever find it possible to forget or forgive."