Friday, January 27, 2012

The Smooth Life

by Sandy Shore • President/CEO

Originally published in the 2011 Seabreeze Jazz Festival program, Panama City Beach, Florida.

What is Smooth Jazz?
Smooth Jazz is like a brand name for a blend of music that creates a certain vibe… a relaxed feeling… a loose mood.  Like recipes for all favorite dishes, Smooth Jazz blends can vary depending on your favorite ingredients… but for the most part the music genre includes elements of jazz, pop, R&B, soul and international flavors, especially partial to Latin, Brazilian, Reggae and African.

Also known as Contemporary Jazz, Fusion and Nu Jazz… “Smooth Jazz’ is a name that seems to be the most embraced by fans.  I think because it’s a name that’s easy to cuddle up to. Smooth is a great word in reference to so many things when describing the palatability of an item whether it’s food or drink or a person or a piece of clothing… and jazz, well, it truly is one of our greatest art forms… expressive, deep, interesting.  Combine these two words and you have fashionable depth. 

There is no such thing as “pure” Smooth Jazz because Smooth Jazz is not a pure music format… it’s a hybrid, a mix if you will of many sonic influences and hence why it is so well received across generations all over the world.

Smooth Is More Than Jazz... It's A Lifestyle
Smooth is a way to unwind and simplify in an otherwise complicated world.  With emails, texts, chats and phone calls swirling around us day in and day out, Smooth provides the possibility to reclaim our inherent nature of calm and tranquil.  When we nurture ourselves by our audio environment it seems that anything is possible.  When stress melts away, the feeling of autonomy takes over… Passports come out… and we are once again free to move about the planet exactly as we choose.

Smooth music lovers share a global community all over the world… It seems that people are seeking light and love and the frequency of this music offers brighter moods with joyful melodies and exceptional craftwork when it comes to musicianship and creativity.

Festivals, like this one are organized to draw large groups of like-minded people who feel the desire to gather and to surrender to a few days of live performance, high energy, culture, relaxation and refreshment.
These events are taking place all over the world… In the U.S. they take the form of a festival, and skilled event producers are also taking the music to the seas on fantastic cruises on large, luxury liners filled with friends, fans, and artists who all mingle to the music for 7 or more days!

Outside of the U.S. in other countries, late night Smooth gatherings occur around Chill Out music at historic venues such as castles on the coasts of the Mediterranean with late night lounging and imbibing.
Smooth knows no age or race… it is a one world – one music kinda groove… many songs, one love.

The Music… The Artists… The Future
Smooth Jazz artists range from fusion players to pop song writers… sometimes the most unusual musicians will end up on the Smooth Jazz playlist… like Slash from Guns n’Roses.  A beautiful song of his called “Obsession Confession” has been played on many Smooth Jazz stations for years… For us in the programming sector of this format, we listen for songs, like seeking gems… and that’s why you may hear something by an artist that would normally be considered another genre and hence again, why there is no such thing as “pure” Smooth Jazz.

Jazz artists don’t love the name Smooth Jazz, especially if they have an edgier side to their music… but the good news for them is that we will only select songs that fit the mix and fans will discovery their multi-faceted skills upon discovering them on our platform.  Smooth Jazz offers instrumentalists and jazz artists a home in a commercial setting while many other contemporary music formats ignore their offerings.

Smooth Jazz as a music format must evolve in order to sustain itself, the lifestyle and the Global message.  This means that the artists who were involved on the ground floor of this project need to continue to embrace change… welcome it and welcome new ideas and continue to be on the edge of the smooth… reinventing themselves… staying cool and fashionable deep and allowing for new talent to grow and perhaps even nurture more women to express themselves through jazz… something that has not been cultivated in the jazz culture outside of singing.

Programmers need to think about enhancing the sound with exciting, new artists that are making an emotional impact on society… is there room for Adele? Ceelo Green? John Legend? Lizz Wright? In my opinion, there needs to be.  We don’t need more oldies and classics in our blend… they had their time and they are legendary… but we are living in the 2nd decade of a new millennium and we need relevant music for the times in order to stay relevant.

Where’s My Smooth Jazz?
If you live in an area in the U.S. that no longer plays Smooth Jazz on your FM dial, it’s because the broadcasting company that owned the frequency has no longer found monetary success with the format in your market.  FM radio, not just Smooth Jazz FM, is monitored and rated by a company called Arbitron… their metrics used in rating stations can be challenging and confusing at times for participants and the data transmitted back to Arbitron is often hard to come by especially if it’s involving their new electronic device called a “People Meter.”  Unfortunately, these devices do not detect instrumental music well and therefore cannot give credit to the radio station playing it… hence many broadcasting corporations are pulling the plug on instrumental-based formats as without ratings, there is little revenue.

Fortunately, here on the Emerald Coast, WSBZ is family owned and operated and is finding other means to measure the success of their radio station…  They, like me, know that that the audience is very much out there, and very much listening and enjoying the music. 

By attending this festival and patronizing their advertisers you are keeping Smooth music alive in this community.  By paying attention to the music and consuming it as your budget allows, you are keeping Smooth Music alive in the U.S.

When radio people created this model of music programming and took it to market well over 20 years ago, they were responsible of launching so much more than a mix of music… they launched a way of life that has just begun to spread and morph all over this beautiful world.  Despite the loss of many great FM radio stations in this country, in my opinion, we’ve just started to make an impact with Smooth Jazz with the music readily available on-line, on satellite and on phones all over the world.

Keeping it Smooth
Smooth is here to stay… as we refine ourselves as people in civilized countries, we’ll continue to embrace things that offer us comfort, joy and light. We’ll opt for simple over complicated every chance we get and we’ll not only demand, but we’ll require a soundtrack that encourages our healing… It is in our nature to go where the light is.