by carl wilson

Birth of the Uncool:
Notes on Schmaltz (3)

I hadn't noticed that the "competition" also ran a smooth-jazz feature this month until writer Mike Doherty pointed me to it. (See previous discussion. May I take credit for having gotten this ball rolling last year, or is it just that the Smooth Jazz Awards have gotten better at calling attention to themselves?) Mike's point in the opening about the general reassessment of the uncool is quite cogent - you could add fusion, bubblegum, prog-rock and hippie folk to his list, which includes "easy-listening music (through the lounge revival), '80s teen-pop (through Schooldisco club nights), and 'smooth' soft rock (through the cult internet TV hit Yacht Rock)." What makes smooth jazz a more contentious subject, aside from the generally embattled condition of jazz these days? It's that unlike all the others mentioned above, it's not over. It's not a revival. So there is no generously nostalgic forgiveness extended towards it. It's more in the position of teen dance-pop (though at least the latter has a more aggressive squadron of defenders), or of my chosen burden, Celine Dion. But I think the erosion of the bulwarks against uncool music is real. My Pop Conference paper will be about why it is also important.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 10 at 01:38 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

COMMENTS

Maxwell Reid Dandre Josef Dillon Mekhi

Posted by Quinn on May 2, 2006 09:48 PM

 

 

Don't people who are selective about their music and don't just have the radio on for audio wallpaper choose it as much if not to suit their energy or function rather than mood?

Without the occasional sampling of bad music from outside our range of listening pleasures, wouldn't we lose sight (or at least frame of reference) of why the great sounds make us tick?

Posted by Sebastian on April 13, 2006 07:07 PM

 

 

"But what makes you think that smooth jazz is all smooth jazz listeners listen to?"

Good point. I got carried away in my generalisations.

On a tangent: have you investigated the phenomenon of Québécois singers flooding France? It's an annoying trend for those who aren't overly fond of Céline's progeny.

Posted by Mwanji on April 13, 2006 03:59 AM

 

 

"Extremism in the defense of Grover Washington Jr. is no vice!"

"Give me Grover Washington Jr. or give me death!"

Carl -- spot on. My seriously Smooth-loving co-worker has a deep love of the blues as well; she grew up listening to it.

Posted by john on April 12, 2006 02:00 PM

 

 

But what makes you think that smooth jazz is all smooth jazz listeners listen to? I listen to Xenakis and Peter Brotzmann, but I also listen to Prince and George Jones. So maybe the smooth audience wants saxophones on the beach sometimes and other times they want Beethoven, or Nas, or the Godfather movies, or whatever. Talking about it as mood music seems to include the notion that moods change, no? But serious music fans tend to demand that you tie your identity to your allegiance to particular genres, which is where i think things get curious.

Posted by zoilus on April 12, 2006 12:35 PM

 

 

I don't dispute the importance of "who do you want to be." Still, as a group (rather than just the excerpt you quoted) the quotes are disturbing and even bizarre. According to them, sophisticated, educated and well-to-do people crave nothing so much as shadowy saxophones on the beach or floating on a cool breeze.

Is that what the equally sophisticated and well-to-do segments of the publics of other art forms (painting, litterature, etc.) want from their art? It just seems odd, to me, to seek out only music (or anything else) that *only* soothes in the blandest way possible. I certainly don't want to be challenged all the time, but neither do I want to be continually massaged, either.

Posted by Mwanji on April 12, 2006 07:30 AM

 

 

Clearly, given the genre's $ucce$$, a lot of people do want to be part of that audience. And how unusual (or wrong, in fact) is it for people to want to be "well-to-do, educated, quite sophisticated in terms of their interest in culture and music in particular" - ?

But what's compelling to me is how all these conversations come around to this question: Not "what does this music do" but "who do you want to be".

Posted by zoilus on April 11, 2006 12:31 PM

 

 

That's all well and good, but who wants to be part of the smooth jazz audience, swaddled in protective "reverb and slick production"?

"well-to-do, educated, quite sophisticated in terms of their interest in culture and music in particular... a dream demographic."

"enjoy that a saxophone is playing on stage in front of a forest with a cool, summer breeze. That signifies smooth jazz for a lot of people."

"I've never been to a festival where smooth jazz artists have played and seen people go completely nuts and crazy. I've seen them want to go and buy the CD for a pleasant listening experience."

and to top it all off:

"Koch's biggest smooth jazz sellers, Alper says, are the Jazzscapes compilation DVDs, featuring "a shadowy figure on a beach playing a saxophone with waves and water"

Posted by Mwanji on April 11, 2006 07:32 AM

 

 

well, not so much fusion a la Weather Report, but fusion a la Electric Miles, definitely. (see under "post-rock", Tortoise/Isotope 217 division.)

Posted by zoilus on April 11, 2006 01:55 AM

 

 

Cheers for the link, and good point about smooth jazz's not having left us yet ... I suppose it's just mutated over the years like a virus. But when was there a fusion revival? Damn -- I must have missed it!

Posted by Mike D on April 10, 2006 05:24 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson