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Rabshakeh

Greatest Smooth Jazz records: recommendations please!

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For no apparent reason, today (3 November 2020, GMT timezone) I woke up with a pressing desire to listen to something smooth, calming and entirely without edges.

I can't identify the reason; it must be something in the air.

So, what are your top three records from the universally beloved smooth jazz format? 

I have kept it to three, because I am not 100% sure that even existential dread will persuade me to listen to more than three back to back.

Bonus points for actual "jazz" content (presence of improvisation, etc.).

Edited by Rabshakeh

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I wouldn't possibly know of three but ... maybe George Benson 90s recordings? Surely there would be moments of inspired improv still. 

When I worked at a Light Adult Contemporary station the owner programmed instrumentals by some guy named Craig Chaquico who I just discovered via Allmusic that he was lead guitarist for Jefferson Starship(?). 

I can't vouch for any recordings because they all suck donkey dicks but one name I know of is Boney James, for whom there is a special place in hell for his warmed over Cannonball/Maceo licks which are probably nonetheless too gritty for your needs.

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George Howard's cover of There's a Riot Goin' On, (on Blue Note!).

Grover's Winelight - a wonderful mood record.

Joe Sample's Invitation - harmonically rich

Dave Sanborn - Pearls -again, mood music, superbly played.

Keep away from anybody making this music after it became codified as such. It will almost certainly suck. But look for people with music, not product in mind,...it will still mostly suck, but not almost certainly.

Dare I say Chris Botti? I neither have nor want any of his records, but what I hear of them...he's a guy who can play, he knows music, and his product seems both well-made and well-informed, even if it does have all the edges removed and all the contentions eliminated.

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17 minutes ago, JSngry said:

George Howard's cover of There's a Riot Goin' On, (on Blue Note!).

Grover's Winelight - a wonderful mood record.

Joe Sample's Invitation - harmonically rich

Dave Sanborn - Pearls -again, mood music, superbly played.

Keep away from anybody making this music after it became codified as such. It will almost certainly suck. But look for people with music, not product in mind,...it will still mostly suck, but not almost certainly.

Dare I say Chris Botti? I neither have nor want any of his records, but what I hear of them...he's a guy who can play, he knows music, and his product seems both well-made and well-informed, even if it does have all the edges removed and all the contentions eliminated.

FWIW, Botti when to Indiana University (David Baker), same age group there as Robert Hurst, Ralph Bowen, 

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Spyro Gyra's "Morning Dance" is better than you probably remember. So are Bob James' four CTI dates. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Not "smooth jazz," but a Jo Stafford record might fit the bill.

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1 hour ago, Dan Gould said:

I can't vouch for any recordings because they all suck donkey dicks but one name I know of is Boney James, for whom there is a special place in hell for his warmed over Cannonball/Maceo licks which are probably nonetheless too gritty for your needs.

This is the kind of glowing endorsement that I was looking for. 

24 minutes ago, Mark Stryker said:

 

Edited by Rabshakeh

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Before much of my first real exposure to real (actual) jazz, I took a beginners modern dance class in college (free half-credit, and I took all those I could).

Pretty sure I heard Grover Washington’s Mr. Magic (the whole album) close to a dozen times over about thirty 90-minute classes that semester (circa 1989, iirc).

I’ve never owned a copy, but it’s a good spin every now and then online, every 2-3 years or so.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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21 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

51h92DT0vjL.jpg

I have always loved the title track ... something about says hope and joy to me 🙂

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Bob James & David Sanborn's Double Vision

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and Earl Klugh's Soda Fountain Shuffle (actually, a lot of Klugh's 70s & 80s albums are worthwhile)

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Grover's Winelight - a wonderful mood record.

Yeah, came here to say this as well.

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Some of John Klemmer's ABC and Elektra albums? Smooth with intensity.

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Earl Klugh's late '70's records are really good, especially this:

Magicinyoureyes.jpg

A second for Spyrogyra's Morning Dance.  And don't forget:

Chuck_Mangione%2C_Feels_So_Good_%281977%

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When I was young in my home I heard quite a bit of The Crusaders (after dropping "Jazz" from the name), that aligns nicely with some of the pre-smooth jazz reccommendations above.

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in late 70s Britain, at least the part where I lived, all self-respecting soulboys listened to 

Grover Washington - Winelight

Crusaders - Streetlife

and my particular favourite at the time

David Sanborn - Hideaway {which I still have somewhere)

Happy Days!

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If you locked me in a room and told me I couldn't get out until I'd listened to some smooth jazz, I'd go with "Najee's Theme" by Jerome Najee Rasheed (professionally known by just his middle name) and Earl Klugh's "Heart String".    

Edited by Dave James

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Najee can play. Wasn't he MD for Anita Baker for quite a bit? That's some serious cred, imo.

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7 hours ago, JSngry said:

Najee can play. Wasn't he MD for Anita Baker for quite a bit? That's some serious cred, imo.

I know he covered her song "Sweet Love" at one point.  Anyone who has anything to do with Anita Baker is more than OK by me.

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22 hours ago, JSngry said:

Najee can play. Wasn't he MD for Anita Baker for quite a bit? That's some serious cred, imo.

I think my issue, back when he was one of the instrumentalists I'd be forced to spin on Mello 105 was this feeling that the stage name was like a put-on or something. Only in smooth jazz and pop do you get one name artists, right?

Anyway Wikipedia says, without attribution, that his inspirations are: Coltrane, Bird, Lateef, JoeHen, Grover and Ronnie Laws, plus Hubert Laws and James Galway.

Also says that at the New England Conservatory he performed with the George Russell and Jaki Byard Big Bands.

Edited by Dan Gould

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I am going to nominate one from out of left field: one of Dave Schildkraut's favorite records was Coleman Hawkins with Strings. It was Hawk with big, syrupy arrangements, and it was quite smooth.

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Ramsey Lewis - Dance of the Soul. A 1998 release. There's a vocal track that causes me pain but otherwise a most enjoyable album.

 

Edited by dicky

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