« On the Festival Trail | Main | Interplay 2007 »

May 07, 2007

Fusion/Acid Jazz/Funk/Etc.


I feel that I must reply to the reader's comment concerning fusion (Jill's posting).  I've been involved with college radio for nearly twenty years, so I think that I can speak with some knowledge on the subject of fusion, acid jazz,  funk and smooth jazz. I have none of those genres in my music collection, but I consider those forms as a starting point for developing a love for jazz.

When I started listening to music,  there were no recordings of this kind. I grew up listening to pre-rock & roll R&B on Afro-American radio stations. When I heard my first jazz recordings, I had to start rethinking my whole musical philosophy which was somewhat difficult. Have I listened to those genres? Yes, in the 1960s, it was impossible not to. You could throw in African-American gospel (soul) music in the mix also (Bobby Timmons & Les McCann & others). I think the attraction for young people and adults who enjoy these forms is because it has a danceable beat and it's easy for their ears to get accustomed to. I personally stopped listening to these genres after a few years, because the musicians were not playing any new licks.

Do I look down my nose at people who like fusion and such? No, because I feel that they will eventually  come to the dark side with the rest of us and I tell college students that as they get older their "ears" will get bigger.

May 7, 2007 at 06:31 PM in L.J. Palardy | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Fusion/Acid Jazz/Funk/Etc.:


Thanks L.J. I agree with your opinions on these styles of music. I think is important to point out that what often links many of these styles is their "poppy-ness." Some fusion can be quite far out & have myriad of musical influences (Weather Report comes to mind). But in the end a lot of these styles are more "palatable" to jazz neophytes. Much is often more repetitive than traditional jazz, while some is so watered down & vapid that it goes well beyond the "easy listening" tag to enter into "new age" territory (New age is another whole topic...).

Anyway, the thing that links these styles supposedly to jazz is their tendency to have at least one instrument (or horrible bleating in the case of Kenny G.) attempting to "improvise" over some groovy changes. This is very similar to the "jam band" scene, but that's another topic altogether...

In the end, I'm not sure how much of this stuff is actually jazz. There's no doubt that this is all various styles of music of various levels of quality, but some of it just ain't jazz.

Sade (whom I actually like quite a bit) is a pop singer in my book, but she's played on "smooth jazz" stations. Heck, I remember when they tried to market Norah Jones for the longest time as jazz! Anyway, what I hope is that many of these "less jazzy" styles will pique an interest in the roots of jazz & people will discover the likes of Ella, Billie, Satchmo, Coltrane & beyond!

Posted by: thewiz12 | May 10, 2007 6:14:06 PM

I'm not going to get into a lengthy debate about the merits -- or demerits -- of "smooth jazz." I host a weekly "smooth jazz" radio show on WGDR in Plainfield, so I'm inherently biased on that one.

I will say, however, that traditional jazz gets almost no airplay on commercial radio, primarily because the majority of traditional jazz songs run much longer than the maximum five minutes per song allowed on commercial stations. And traditional jazz is essentially evening music that, in terms of radio airplay, simply doesn't work during the day, except perhaps for Sunday mornings (It's hard to imagine grooving to Miles Davis or John Coltrane when you're stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam while commuting to work).

As a "smooth jazz' DJ for nearly a decade, I can tell you that much of what passes for "smooth jazz" is really a fusion of jazz and R&B. In recent months, however, I've noticed a proliferation of "smooth jazz" remakes of old R&B songs. Some are pretty good and I've played them on my show. Others are pure dreck that will never see the light of airplay (Being on a noncommercial station affords me the luxury of having total control over what songs get played on my show -- a luxury that DJs on commercial stations don't have).

But I know that even "smooth jazz" has limited appeal; Clear Channel Burlington made a huge mistake when it launched a 24-hour smooth-jazz station in 2000. I knew that it wouldn't fly; once a week, maybe, but 24/7? No way. Sure enough, WJVT (Smooth Jazz 92.1) bombed in the Burlington radio ratings. But then Clear Channel replaced it with hip-hop-dominated Kiss FM, which has bombed even worse (But that's another story).

Bottom line: Jazz is a niche music format that you're likely to hear only on noncommercial radio.

And even "smooth jazz" has limited appeal; there are only 54 commercial "smooth jazz" radio stations across the country -- most of them in the 50 biggest cities. But these sations are finding themselves adding more straight-ahead R&B to their playlists.

Posted by: Skeeter Sanders | May 11, 2007 7:14:27 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.