I just saw Richard Elliot (sax) and Rick Braun (trumpet) in concert. Now I know why God made horns!
Those guys are very accomplished musicians, but there gimmick wore out my ears after 2 songs. They played about 10 songs. In the words of Stan Lee: Aaaarrrggggghhh!
I did, however develop a new appreciation for Smooth Jazz. To see the entire theatre bobbing their heads to the muzak was very impressive.
The grooves were simple and constant and nobody cared to critique (except me) so I kept my mouth shut and actually learned a few things.
They were also very good performers. I believe both of them played some signature licks laying down on their backs. The crowd again loved every minute of it.
BTW their new CD is called "RnR", if you're interested.
Actually my biggest beef with smooth jazz is simply the repetitive beat--usually some sort of synth hip-hop beat: it's cool the first four bars, and then you realize that the same beat will repeat for the entire tune.
If there was more dynamics, maybe some breaks or unison lines--something to break up the repetitive drum pattern, I think the songs would be a lot more musically interesting.
When I was at Berklee in the early 90s we had a photo of kenny G taped to the underside of the toilet lid until one poker party where everyone thought it was really for target practice lol ;D
Seriously tho, I have no beef with smooth jazz as long as to the artist it really is truth to who they are and what is inside of their soul. Grover was amazing and he was an artist. Too bad 99% of the smooth jazz group is just music school graduates trying to find a way to make some money when they realize their performance degree and 3 bucks will buy them a latte at Starbucks
I guarantee you if there were still big bands and pops orchestras flourishing those guys would all be playing in those bands and playing "real" jazz at afterhours clubs.
Or if it was Alpiar-Utopia we could go to clubs paying modal, free and avant-garde jazz bands like rockstars!!
Rick Braun is an Eastman grad. Believe you me, he can play! I am sure that the smooth jazz thing pays the bills. If you ever get a chance to hear Rick play straight ahead jazz, go for it. He will knock your socks off.
That was the thing... Their playing was actually great. I could hear plenty of bebop references. It wasn't the ability that bothered me, it was the songs were so dynamically intense. Every song seemed to be played with a velocity range of 90-127 (to put it programming terms )
They were showmen. Plus the crowd loves that "SNL-esque" sax growl. I can't be mad at them. They've found a way to make big money doing what they do.
I dont know anyone that posted on this topic. THe only person Ive heard mentioned on here Ive heard of is Kenny Gee. I am always amazed at the attitude of people that like what you are calling on here straight ahead Jazz on here. By the way what is straight ahead jazz. At any rate I get the impression you feel all musicians like it and are really just playing something else because they cant play jazz and that is not true. Kenny Gee is a good player. Just because he doesnt sound like what you think a straight ahead jazz player should sound like doesnt mean he belongs on a toilet seat. I play country and bluegrass a lot and love it. One time when I was in jazz band at Morehead state, I also play sax they all started to make fun of Boots Randolf, the Kenny Gee of the day. So they started to play wild wood flower. Guess what they couldnt play it, made fools of themselves. Kenny Gee made some wonderful sounding records in my opinion. DId I think he was one of the best sax players I ever heard. No by no means. However he found a sound that I think he really enjoyed and obviously a lot of people did. Isnt that what music is all about. I think a lot of straight ahead jazz players sound like a bunch of frustrated guys trying to see how many ways they can play a scale. Was that the case in Charlie Parker no. DId I think he was fantastic, yes, did I like his music, not much. If I have learned one thing it is to be more tolerant of other styles and opionions. Some people sincerly like other music than I do. Just because someone is not playing what you think they should may not mean they dont like what they are doing. By no means does it mean they belong on a toilet seat. Ive also found a lot of the most critical people cant play a lick. Just my opinion and IM sure you wont think its worth much
Jazz is about exploration. It's about breaking the envelope, it's about being a scientist and of course being a good historian as that is intrinsic to being a scientist. But most of all Jazz is about truth and emotional justice and the searching for your soul with some other folks that you trust enough and they return that trust to allow for the amazing magic of improvisational rapture.
Kenny G was in his early years a moderately technically OK musician. He knew a few scales and he had a little bit of chops and a little bit of soul. What he does now and in the last 20 years is bubblegum that has no depth or soul. It is not Jazz. It is elevator music. Music-on-hold. Instrumental Pop. Cheese--whiz. Whatever you want to call it but its not Jazz.
He has about a dozen licks that he practiced enough to squeeze by on and his melodic concepts are more like random notes played on the "right" scale to be unobtrusive. To my ears, it is obvious that he has no passion for music, but instead for his hair salon. Read some interviews of him, he's really a sad case. I will paraphrase that he stated in an interview that he would rather be working out than practicing. He spends 20 minutes a day practicing. LOL
As a human being I have no issue with the man. As a musician I am generally appalled. As an artist I cry.
But I also dont think much of any of the Jazz today, whether its smooth or "straight ahead" as you call it. Today all the jazz musicians are graduates of programs where they "taught you" to play the "right" notes when and where. Which solos to transcribe. Which licks to learn in 12 keys. Even the most technically amazing cats out there just regurgitate stuff that was done already. Perfectly and seamlessly, like engineers. And for all those chops they aren't saying dip. Mostly we have forgotten what Jazz means and we have lost the way to the 2 dimensional corporatizing of musical notes and concepts. There are a couple exceptions but they are few and far between. I loved bebop, post bop, cool jazz, modal, hard bop, free, avant garde and all the other flavors that would take 2 hours to write down. But today it all just sounds the same, the way that every mix of any kind of music sounds the same on the lovely 16 bit crunched CD format.
Anyhow, bottom line is that if your music is really and truly from your heart 100% then it matters not what style it may or may not fall in. When you are a sellout who pretends with gimmicks for the sake of the allmighty Benjamin then you should be sent to someplace in the Pacific Ocean and drowndeded glub glub glub
Since I am the guy that talked about Kenny G its obvious your post is projected at me. Well I don't play a lot anymore but I did the NYC thing for a while. I played with some of the heaviest cats alive and some dead. If you are interested in who I am come and check out my website . As for the NYC thing, I couldnt take being so broke and trying to live in NYC so I moved on to other ways of living. But as a sax player of critical yet modest soul for 25 years that is my opinion of Jazz of the smooth and acoustic
you know my post actualy was directed at years of frustration. You just hit a real key. TO be great your music has to come from your heart. From your soul. It has to be what comes out of you when in the middle of the night you wake up and your crying out its what comes out of you then, thats who you are. If you try to do anything else it may be OK but never great. Ive heard a lot of musicians in different styles that touched me because they were playing from the heart. I used to love to read about the pioneers of Jazz, playing because they loved it. The blues. Im from Ky. some of these bluegrass musicians can flat play and dont think they dont know anything about music, they do. YOu may be right about Kenny Gee but I just thought he was enjoying what he was doing, at least to some point. I enjoyed your post and will check out your web site. I agree with one thing you said totally about everything sounding the same. TOdays mastering has taken all the dynamics out of music. WIsh I could visit NY someday and go to some of the great Jazz clubs. I never meant to infer I didnt like it but there is something about most of what Im hearing today that I dont. Thanks for all the info