As fusion introduced rock and funk rhythms into the vocabularies of more and more jazz artists, jazz-pop began to mirror the shifting musical landscape, in the process reaching a wider audience than ever before. Jazz artists like Chuck Mangione, Spyro Gyra, Bob James, and George Benson became stars in the mid- to late '70s, with the balance between pop, jazz, and R&B influences varying according to the individual. Purists and many critics decried the slick polish and simplicity of the new breed of jazz-pop, plus what they viewed as commercial pandering and blandly pleasant predictability; during the '80s, their concerns came to be symbolized by the wildly popular soprano saxophonist Kenny G, who sold millions of albums and proved that instrumental jazz-pop could cross over to pop and adult contemporary audiences. During the '90s, Kenny G's success helped give rise to the smooth jazz radio format, which steered jazz-pop in a similarly polished, pleasantly soothing direction.
Smooth Jazz is an outgrowth of fusion, one that emphasizes its polished side. Generally, smooth jazz relies on rhythms and grooves instead of improvisation. There are layers of synthesizers, lite-funk rhythms, lite-funk bass, elastic guitars, and either trumpets, alto, or soprano saxophones. The music isn't cerebral, like hard bop, nor is it gritty and funky like soul-jazz or groove it is unobtrusive, slick, and highly polished, where the overall sound matters more than the individual parts. History of jazz music, AMG Music
that the blues lacked. At the outset, jazz was dance music, performed by swinging big bands. Soon, the dance elements faded into the background and improvisation became the key element of the music. As the genre evolved, jazz music split into a number of different styles, from the speedy, hard-hitting rhythms of be-bop and the laid-back, mellow harmonies of cool jazz to the jittery, atonal forays of free jazz and the earthy grooves of soul jazz. What tied it all together was a foundation in the blues, a reliance on group interplay and unpredictable improvisation. Throughout the years, and in all the different styles, those are the qualities that defined jazz. History of Jazz music, AMG Music
History of Jazz Music- Contemporary
Contemporary Jazz is essentially a catch-all term for the various permutations of popular, mainstream jazz of the 1980s and '90s. While those years were certainly not devoid of complex, cerebral jazz recordings, music referred to as contemporary jazz does not usually share those sensibilities, nor is the term generally used to describe music centered around hard bop or the avant-garde. Instead, instrumental contemporary jazz is usually informed by some combination of a) fusion often slickly produced, with an emphasis on rock and funk rhythms; b) pop-jazz, with its almost exclusive concentration on memorable melodies; c) smooth jazz, with its primary goal of creating pleasant, mellow textures; and d) crossover jazz and contemporary funk, with their blend of polished production and R&B influences. Not all contemporary jazz artists completely discard improvisation and challenging experimentation, but by and large, most instrumentalists emphasize shiny production, melody, and accessibility. In the realm of vocal jazz, these jazz singers may or may not possess an improvisational flair, but in most cases, their recordings attempt to evoke an aura of stylish sophistication, sometimes drawing upon pop and R&B in addition to jazz. History of Jazz music, AMG Music
Jazz - Rock
Jazz-rock may refer to the loudest, wildest, most electrified fusion bands from the jazz camp, but most often it describes performers coming from the rock side of the equation. Jazz-rock first emerged during the late '60s as an attempt to fuse the visceral power of rock with the musical complexity and improvisational fireworks of jazz. Since rock often emphasized directness and simplicity over virtuosity, jazz-rock generally grew out of the most artistically ambitious rock subgenres of the late '60s and early '70s: psychedelia, progressive rock, and the singer/songwriter movement. The latter drew from the mellower, more cerebral side of jazz, often employing vocal as well as instrumental improvisation; this school's major figures included Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Tim Buckley. Most jazz-rock, however, was played by higher-energy rock ensembles. Some of them were more jam-oriented, borrowing jazz harmonies and instruments for their extended, rock-flavored improvisations (Traffic, Santana). Others recorded jazz-flavored R&B or pop songs that used the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic sensibilities of jazz, but weren't as interested in improvisation or instrumental virtuosity (Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Steely Dan). Still others used jazz's complexity to expand rock's musical horizons, not just in terms of instrumental technique but in crafting quirky, challenging, unpredictable compositions (Frank Zappa, the Soft Machine). The major exception was Miles Davis, the first jazz musician since the early R&B era to covet the earthy power of rock & roll and the impact it had on young audiences. Starting with 1970's Bitches Brew, Davis' early-'70s fusion workouts greatly inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone quickly became some of the funkiest, edgiest, most aggressive jazz-rock ever recorded. While figures like Zappa and (Steely Dan) continued to record jazz-rock through the '70s, the movement had essentially dissipated by the '80s, as a mellower form of fusion captured its audience. History of Jazz music, AMG Music