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How smooth jazz took over the ‘90s

You should give smooth jazz a chance.

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Smooth jazz has gotten a bad rap for decades. It’s often associated with background music for elevators or the soundtrack at the dentist office. Smooth jazz is less a genre of music than a highly researched radio format and, although it’s heyday was in the 1990s and it’s mostly associated with Kenny G, its origins go back the mid 1960s when a select few jazz musicians crossed over to pop music and had music purists riling. Artists like Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson took the style to new heights and created the sound that we all know and love….to hate.

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Comments (40)

  1. Love Vox Earworm? Hop onto a live Q&A with Estelle Caswell, the creator behind the series, on December 20 at 5 PM ET by joining the Vox Video Lab, our new membership program on YouTube. She and other creators on our team will bringing you behind the scenes in a completely new way! (And if you missed the livestream, you'd still be able to see a recording).

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  2. Ask Pat Metheny what he thinks of Kenny G.

  3. Smooth Jazz = Pop without words

  4. I grew up with smooth jazz which eventually lead me into loving old jazz greats! Fantastic songs, I hope this video inspires people to check out this fantastic genre.

  5. The sound of my generation.

  6. Very much an American thing, thankfully, since I despise Jazz in all its forms

  7. Smooth Jazz is NOT Jazz, nor creative art in any way

  8. I think Smooth Jazz will be popular in the 2020s. Because Synthwave is popular in 2010s.

  9. Shucks! Just 6 minutes into this video made me feel like i had watched hours of it … in a good way. So much of information packaged in such an interesting manner. Kudos!

  10. 1:06 Wait.. is that the man with the golden voice (Ted Williams), the guy who used to be homeless?

  11. This crappy music should never be called Jazz! The cats playing it don't improvise, there is no Blues base and only the star solos. Maybe adult contemporary would be a better name. But, this video is fairly informative.

  12. Anyone else remember KOAI 106.1 FM (later 107.5 FM) "The Oasis" in Dallas, TX back in the 80s and 90s? It was DFW's Smooth Jazz and New Age radio station.

  13. "Smooth Jazz" became a thing in the early 90s because top 40 radio in the late 80s and early 90s was at an all time low- remember:
    Lisa Lisa The Cult Jam
    Atlantic Star
    Rick Ashley
    Samantha Fox
    Milli Vinilli
    C+C Music Factory
    Karyn White
    All the White "Boy Bands trying to do R&B" – oh God!
    Ace of Base – God give me strength
    The list could go on and on…
    And jazz of any kind was like, "oh thank you God"
    BTW Kenny G was horrible – and killed the "cool" in jazz
    Love Earworm – <3

  14. What a great video. I grew up with my parents listening to smooth jazz in the 1990's on 94.7 the wave (Los Angeles). Of course as I became an adult, it rubbed off on me, and I started listening to it. But then it seemed the smooth jazz stations kinda just disappeared or the genre changed. 94.7 the wave kinda changed. Although it's still a very good station. I now live in the Sf bay area, and their smooth jazz station shut down about 10 yrs ago. So to get my smooth jazz fix, I listen to Watercolors on Sirius XM. Or use apple music. But it just kinda baffles me, why the FM radio stations just sorta stopped playing the genre. Anyway, I'm glad someone did a mini-documentary on this topic.

  15. 104.1 WJZF. Pretty much all my parents listened to during my childhood in the 90's.

  16. Hey Vox I have been loving these jazz videos allot please make more there so amazing and inspiring

  17. 94.7, The WAVE, YES!!!!!!!

  18. Awesome video. I love jazz especially traditional. I like smooth jazz also. Some of it sounds the same, but you can get something out od it.

  19. I really enjoyed the video, however I feel this video (to do Smooth Jazz justice) would have to be like 4 times as long or even longer. We can't leave out the accomplishments of David Sanborn, The Rippingtons, Russ Freeman, Dave Koz, etc. I was really hoping to hear from more of those. I really enjoyed your emphasis on Kenny G!

  20. … and you just proved once again how musically shallow you are. Please stop posting vids about jazz. You and the clowns who put the list together for the Ohio "fake rock and roll" museum really ought to get together and build a jazz one next to it… complete wtih frauds and people who have no business being in it.

  21. Hey time travellerrs lets just erase those people out of history

  22. In the '90s there were a bunch of smooth jazz stations. Bands like Fourplay and The Rippingtons were very popular and sax man Dave Koz was DJ of my favourite weekly program. Now there are virtually no such stations. Just a craze like disco I suppose….

  23. I'm not sure the popularity/critical snobbery argument holds as much weight given that in past decades jazz was wildly popular.

  24. Kenny G is a nightmare….yakh

  25. Saxophonist is pronounced SAX-OFF-ON-ISTS, not Sax-a-phone-ists.

  26. Back in the 70s these were Easy Listening stations — a mix of Ferrante & Teicher, 1001 Strings, and similar groups covering standards, movie themes, and pop songs — with Bossa Nova, jazz by Dave Brubeck, and light pop from groups like the Carpenters mixed in.

  27. First, this was well done. 
    Second, Smooth Jazz is still crap. It's complete garbage. 

    IMO, guys like George Benson, Grover Washington and Wes Montgomery get passes because they were highly respected and influential before they sold out. Kenny G was never respected.

  28. I host a nighttime smooth Jazz program once a week on a community FM radio station in Australia. The Station has all Volunteers, with a highly professional attitude. A Smooth Jazz format done cleverly and correctly, gently introduces people back into Jazz. The weird stuff in the past wreaked havoc on the Jazz genre and drove them away. Not surprisingly, once they "get it" they start to explore some of the fuller Jazz genre once again – or the first time. And thankyou so much for such a concise video. superb!

  29. I am so glad this is the music I grew up to. Mad props to my dad.

  30. Smooth Jazz was a curse and virus!!!

  31. I can tolerate Kenny G, but Boney James is probably the anti-Christ…

  32. Thanks!! Please do more videos on jazz ! 😀

  33. Create a playlist on Apple Music

  34. Damm, this is great content, well-researched and superbly written. Thank you.

  35. This chic is amazing. Great channel.

  36. This is like taking a course in jazz appreciation from an accredited college!!

  37. Hey Arnold! The intro is jazzy

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