Grading the Top 10 in … SMOOTH JAZZ!

1. Paul Hardcastle, “No Stress At All”

A chilled-out take on the intro riff from Kool & The Gang’s 1974 cut “Summer Madness,” as also used by DJ Jazzy Jeff for the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime.” Paul Hardcastle is a synthesizer pioneer with the coolest name ever. No stress no seeds no stems no sticks!

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “You can easily get high off this. it has that hot summer feeling to it. time to go to the beach for the hunnies…ya know!” — Thomas holleman


2. Vincent Ingala, “Wish I Was There”

Smooth jazz or piano house from saxophone wunderkind Vincent Ingala? A little of both. This song is “a tribute to his father Leo, who introduced Vincent to ’70s disco and dance music at an early age.” That’s sweet, but this is not my favorite. He’s got time to work on that, though.

Grade: C

Best YouTube Comment: “Mood on the people. Feeling that good things will happen.” — smoothyokohama


3. Boney James ft. Rick Braun, “Batucada (The Beat)”

I can only read the name of this song in the same cadence as Ann Wilson from Heart singing “BARRACUDA!” Boney James was a sideman for artists like Morris Day and Teena Marie before launching his own extremely successful solo instrumental career as a smooth jazz saxophonist.

Grade: B-

Best YouTube Comment: “I could jam to this all night! Boney James does it again!” — davesims5194


4. Patrick Lamb, “Maceo!”

Live from Spaghettinis! Portland saxophonist Patrick Lamb’s live band “Maceo” is presumably named for Maceo Parker, the jazz and funk saxophonist who played with James Brown in the ’60s and Parliament-Funkadelic in the ’70s. He’s also been featured on a De La Soul album and is a semi-regular member of Prince’s band. I saw Maceo when he toured with Ani DiFranco in the late ’90s (yup). This song is fine, but it will make you want to turn it off and listen to Maceo Parker instead. MACEO WHAT GOES ON?

Grade: B

Best YouTube Comment: “Wow who is the guitar player?” — william miller


5. Marion Meadows, “Black Pearl”

This is so DRAMATIC. I’m INTO IT. Marion Meadows is a soprano saxophonist with nice technique and incredible hair.

Grade: A-

Best YouTube Comment: “Cristal diamond within black pearl” — DrYurimed


6. David Benoit, “You’re Amazing”

No YOU’RE amazing, David Benoit. This sounds like a margarita tastes.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Love how this song feels like the night time :)” — Arthur Jankins


7. Greg Manning, “Dance With You”

Greg Manning is a Swiss American soul-jazz keyboardist who once wrote the songs for a successful German musical called Keep Cool: Das Comedymusical. I’ve included a clip of the title number from Keep Cool here because I couldn’t find a video of “Dance With You” and because Keep Cool is an unstoppably funny German pastiche of GreaseChicago, and West Side Story. You can listen to “Dance With You” on Greg’s website.

Grade: C+

Best YouTube Comment: “schnarch xD” — greenmedizin


8. Spencer Day, “The Mystery Of You”

Spencer Day is a modern olde tymey crooner in the style of Michael Bublé. He describes himself as “Chet Baker meets Paul Simon,” but his “singer-songwriter jazz” style sounds more like later period Joni Mitchell and Rufus Wainwright, the latter for whom he has opened for. His new album is a hodgepodge of genres, with surf guitar, strings, big torch songs, and other sounds suited to soundtracking an imaginary film. Day grew up Mormon and came out as gay a few years ago. He doesn’t want his sexuality to define him, but he feels it’s important he “stand and be counted” to help build “a bridge between the LGBT community and the Mormon community.” The Mystery of You is a concept album about a breakup he underwent in the years since his third effort Vagabond.

Grade: B



9. Brian Bromberg, “Ellen”

Brian Bromberg is a bassist from Tucson who got his first major gig playing bass with Stan Getz at the age of 19 after he impressed Marc Johnson, who was playing bass for Bill Evans at the time. “Ellen” is off the 2012 rerelease of Bromberg’s 2007 album In The Spirit of Jobim, in which he pays tribute to legendary Brazilian bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. I love Jobim, and so I loved this too.

Grade: A

Best YouTube Comment: “Beautiful music!!!!!!!” — Marva Jones


10. Marc Antoine, “Montuno Bay”

Feather-light Latin jazz from fusion guitarist Marc Antoine is nice for spring.

Grade: B+

Best YouTube Comment: “Plays through the work Muzak — so I decided to Shazam it. Very nice.” — rairadral

Filed Under: Grading the Charts

Molly Lambert is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ mollylambert