The landscape of music has changed immensely over the last 1o-15 years. I am not only talking about the music itself, but the way it is distributed to the listener. Radio used to be the number one medium to consume music, especially new music. There used to be countless radio stations as you rolled up and down the dial. You would have your choice of the many, Pop, Rock, Country, and R&B stations that were out there. The number of them would vary, based on your location, but you can count on a significant number of stations to choose from. It was really about the music, and getting it out there for the music lovers.
Within the last ten years, the major media companies bought out all of the radio stations and they have been consolidated. There’s no more variety. Everything is too corporate. You have a few stations playing twenty of the latest popular songs, over and over. You are lucky if you have an R&B station. Most of the Smooth Jazz stations have either changed formats, or are off the air entirely.
The term Smooth Jazz is a bugaboo in itself. People hear that term and they are immediately turned off. I think they equate the term to music you hear in an elevator. To me, it is a misnomer because although it is smooth, most of it is based in funk. Listen to any Boney James album and tell me that is elevator music. That is musicianship at it’s finest. The Smooth Jazz that I promote here is actually R&B. I mean, let’s be real, the state of traditional R&B is pretty much non-existent. There are a few artists out there that are holding it down, but for the most part, you have to search high and low to get some really good R&B.
I will let you know why R&B is currently lacking. Computer programs and controllers that allow you to play anything without really knowing how to play the instruments. You can play a bassline on a controller straight into a computer program and it will clean up any mistakes that were made. Basslines are played on the bass. Guitar licks on the guitar. When real instruments are being played, you can tell they are being played with feeling.
For me, Smooth Jazz is R&B right now. You have the musicianship and the grooves that traditional R&B is lacking right now. The type of songs that the Smooth Jazz artists are releasing have the R&B elements. Listen to Richard Elliot’s Back To You, and you should see where I am coming from. Just think if Usher or Tyrese sang the verses on that track? I am not saying the song needs vocals, but it would have brought a different dynamic to the song.
These are the type of grooves that are starting to define Smooth Jazz. I don’t know about you, but I am excited about this. Music evolves, and the current Smooth Jazz artists out there are killing it!
Overall, 2016 was a good year, and some great albums were released.
Here are my five top Smooth Jazz Albums 2016:
5. Persuasion – Brian Simpson
Persuasion was released only a few weeks ago, but it has to be in the top five because the album has some strong songs. It also has some variety. First of all, you cannot go wrong when you have Boney James and Peter White making guest appearances. Secondly, there are great songs at different tempos.
Need You Now is the slow groove. If you want the mid-tempo, Take It Up will take you there. Do you want some funk? Persuasion will satisfy that craving. Wonderland is the uptempo danceable, EDM style track. Start to finish, this is a must have for your collection.
4. G – Gerald Albright
To me, Gerald is a legend. So many great songs over so many years. He is the master of the BIG song. I Miss You is an example of that. The song just makes you feel like you are right in the middle of a great movie ending. You know, a couple gazing into each other’s eyes as the rain is pouring down…..
Frankie B is the mid-tempo cut that makes you want to groove real smooth.
I personally like a good remake. I know many artists will include a classic song on their album. That is fine, but I like remakes that are not the obvious choices. Read Your Mind is perfect choice for the album. It takes you back to the original, where you can say to yourself, “I almost forgot about this song!”
All of Gerald’s songs are funky, but if you have a song named Funkism, you have to bring it. We love that groove. Taking Control is the uptempo jam that makes you want to get up and dance.
3. Summer Madness – Richard Elliot
First off, Summer Madness is a sonic masterpiece. The recording quality is up there with some of the greats. Usually you would need to hear it on vinyl to get the full effect. Turn it up and listen to that bass on Cachaca, and you will know what I am talking about. That bottom is deep, and you will literally feel that vibration. West Coast Jam is the hard hitting funk track on an album where all of the tracks sit in that funky pocket.
Summer Madness is a track that may be even better than the original. Kool & the Gang fans, don’t hate on me for that, but you have to admit this version sounds so good. Breakin’ It Down does just that, one of those slunky (slow but funky) jams that takes you back to the old school.
2. True Stories – The Rippingtons
Every Rippingtons album will take you on a journey. True Stories is no exception. I mean, all of the individual instruments and sounds. It is just audio candy that you can enjoy over and over. Wild Tales, and EDM inspired is a song that you can play in the clubs. Sundance is a track that you can play in any setting. Wonderland is a song that could be the soundtrack of a film trailer. Jeffrey Osborne makes a guest appearance on the slow jam, My Promise To You. We need more slow songs like this. The Rippingtons are notorious for these types of slow jams, having enlisted Howard Hewett and Chante Moore in the past as guest vocalists.
1. Global Force – 3rd Force
For me, the baddest Smooth Jazz song of the year is Breakout. With the breakdowns and interludes in the song, MAN…oh by the way, toward the conclusion, you have these short horn bursts that hit the spot. Day Into Night is a smoothed out sophisticated track that showcases their musicianship. You Are The One is the funky, mid-tempo song on the album. To be in my top five, it is a prerequisite to have that mid-tempo funky track. We’ll Be Together is the uptempo jam that we have featured in the Smooth Jazz Mix Series.
Top to bottom, this my favorite because when I am at the house and I want to hear a good album with my glass of wine, I found myself choosing this one the most. It is just a great album.
So as we embark on 2017, I wanted to remember some of the finer releases of the past year, and I am sure that the next year will continue to grace us with really good music.
I just wanted to thank all of you that have followed this site. I try to give you all of the information about the new music, and let you know where these artists will be performing, so that you can go see them live. After all, the stage is the true medium to experience the music.