How Smooth Jazz Took over the ‘90s

Some people might think that smooth jazz just might be that music you hear when riding the elevator—and you might not be mistaken. Smooth Jazz was huge during the ‘90s, and it’s still being played. Kenny G played at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and his music is the background music of the Weather Station. But where did it come from?

In the ‘70s, Jazz had started transitioning to a new sound. The music was filled with winds and strings, something different from traditional jazz but more like current music. Grover Washington was one of the artists that led that charge. Because of his movement toward popular music, Washington lost a lot of respect with traditionalists. Another target of traditionalists was guitarist George Benson. What critics couldn’t overlook, however, was the skill of these artists—or their success.

The problem was that radio stations weren’t sure what to call this new music. Radio Architect was in the process of helping market this new format when a girl they were interviewing coined the phrase, “Smooth Jazz.” In the midst of all of it was Kenny G.

So what happened to Smooth Jazz? The advent of the PPM may have spelled disaster for it. But through it all, Smooth Jazz remains a popular choice for when you need to feel calm and relaxed.

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