I must admit that for me Smooth-Jazz is right below Country&Western if I had to rate my favorite types of music. I usually call it 'Weiner-Jazz' of 'Fuzak'. It always seems like the players think that the closer to Kenny G they sound, the more money they'll make. It just doesn't usually seem authentic to me, like the musicians are 'dumbing down' their playing to sell records. I obviously have a very strong prejudice against this style of music. Then Bob Reynolds read my post about NYC Jazz musicians to say that it was spot on. Bob is a young saxophonist carving his mark in the Big Apple. He sent me a link to his web site where I listened to his MP3s. There were a few Jazzy tunes on there but most were 'Smooth Jazz', or to be more respectful 'Jazz Funk'. Bob sounded great. Big fat sound, great technique, perfect intonation, and great time. As I was listening to one of the tracks Bob broke into some double-time lines. He sounded like Garzone playing Smooth-Jazz!!!! Crazy. Even when Bob is blowing over typical Smooth-Jazz grooves he's always creative and fresh. He doesn't ever stoop to playing stock R&B saxophone licks. He sounds like he is really hearing whatever he plays. He just put up some new MP3s on his site yesterday and one of those was a live trio recording of him playing Trane's 26-2. It was SLAMMING!
Bob sounds a lot like Chris Potter and George Garzone. He also reminded me of John Ellis and Kenny Brooks (probably because of the Garzone connection). I could tell immediately that Bob had studied with George. Bob told me that he took lessons from him for four years at Berklee.
Here's what Bob wrote me about his studies with Garzone:
"So, Garzone....by the time I got to him, I was a strong player highly influenced by Potter — and Lovano was creeping in, but George blew away all my preconceptions. I was never a ‘lick’ and ‘pattern’ player, but I was always looking for the perfect stuff to play over changes, and Garzone starts coming at me with all this “You can play major triads connected by steps over anything...” stuff, and I’m like, “No. You can’t do that!” But I stuck with him for four years and forgot how to articulate and play swung eighth notes (instead playing them straight but behind the beat). Then there was Hal Crook who introduced me to the world of thematic/rhythmic development and stretching the time.. So by senior year I’m wide open as a player (sort of) and playing all the “baddest” shit ...but I’m also in the inaugural edition of Walter Beasley’s “Smooth Jazz Ensemble” !!! What a ride, man. But that’s me. Much as I enjoyed various “smooth” artists early on, I now find 99% revolting (got a soft spot for some Kirk records) and never actually listen to any of them. But, there is an element of r&b/funk that’s deeply ingrained in my musical sensibility
So, now, after 5 years of marinating in NYC, it’s all just turned into different parts of me. I could never really imagine cutting one part out forever. I enjoy trying to bring a bit of each to any musical setting I’m in. Garzone gave my mind the freedom to let go, but the foundation came from all the other guys."
I just might start checking out that adult-contempory station again...........