VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases
19 MAY 11 JONATHAN WIDRAN
Just in time for festival season, Concord trots out Smooth Jazz #1 Hits, a collection that offers glorious evidence of why the smooth jazz genre continues to have an enormous, passionate fan base despite the decline of nationwide terrestrial radio stations exclusively devoted to the melodic, groove based music (mostly instrumental, sometimes with vocals) that fits into this unique category.
It's testament to the strength of the Concord Family's roster that the company can compile tracks from 11 artists that hit #1 on various genre charts (Mediabase Smooth AC, Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums, Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs) and not need to include anything from Kenny G's 2010 set Heart And Soul, even if it hit #1 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. Perhaps it is because with 75 million albums sold -- making him smooth jazz's all time best selling artist -- Kenny is already a household word.
The only artist on this sampler that has achieved that level of fame is legendary R&B/jazz singer/guitarist George Benson ("Livin' In High Definition"). But don't tell that to smoothie fanatics who have been supporting the music for years. In their eyes, bestselling, multiple Grammy-nominated artists like saxmen Dave Koz ("Put The Top Down"), Najee ("Sweet Summer Nights") and Boney James ("Touch") and supergroup Fourplay ("3rd Degree") are superstars.
All of them have gold albums to their credit as well. They feel the same about the other genre A-listers represented here who consistently headline the annual smooth jazz cruises, multi-artist summer and holiday tours and winery series shows across the country: sax players Mindi Abair ("Be Beautiful," featuring vocalist David Ryan Harris), Paul Taylor ("Burnin'"), Jessy J ("Tropical Rain") and Walter Beasley ("Steady As She Goes"), guitartist Peter White ("Bright") and newcomer vocalist Spencer Day ("Till You Come To Me").