Grading This Week’s Top Smooth Jazz Songs
Jazz fans, like sports fans, are known for their intense enthusiasm and competitive obsession with insider knowledge (also: players, collectibles, authenticity). I love jazz, because like so many people I have a dad who loves jazz (hi, dad!), although he goes in for the way out-there stuff. This chart represents a tiny fraction of one style of music, as charts often do. It should be called the Smooth Jazz chart because that’s really what it is. Not that there’s anything wrong with smooth jazz. I have recently been especially enjoying L.A.’s Smooth AC radio station 94.7 The Wave (“Southern California’s place to relax … and unwind” — even the corporate slogan is relaxing). Here are the Top 10 songs from this week’s Billboard Jazz chart.
1. Paul Hardcastle, “Easy Come Easy Go”
The Grand Vizier of smooth jazz soundscapes. This is less wet than the Rainforest, but nice and chilly nonetheless. Keeping customers calm during long phone holds is an art. I wish my last name were Hardcastle.
Best YouTube comment: “Paul… BBQ… my wife… and a bottle of wine… spells succes!!!” [sic] — rogerjazzray
2. Richard Elliot, “Boom Town”
Scotsman Richard “Elliot is known for his zebra-striped tenor saxophone.”
Best YouTube comment: “Nice work — Prof” — thejazzprofessor
3. Acoustic Alchemy, “Marrakesh”
This ensemble found work as an in-flight band on Virgin Airlines. I have never been on a flight where a live band was playing, but I find the very idea hilarious. Perhaps they will be the in-flight entertainment for Richard Branson’s latest questionable idea, Spaceport America (slogan: “When it comes to outer space, New Mexico is bringing it down to earth!” Not even kidding). Speaking of questionable: “The first single [on AA’s album Red Dust And Spanish Lace] ‘Mr. Chow’ fused aspects of Chinese music with reggae.” That must be where the alchemy comes in. Here’s what Chinese reggae made by British smooth-jazz musicians sounds like.
Best YouTube comment: “u deserve a bag of weed for capturing this !” — ryurookie
4. George Benson, “The Lady in My Life”
George Benson covering my favorite song on Thriller. Automatic A+.
Best YouTube comment: “Now that’s NICE!” — MrKeyboardDK
5. Jessy J, “Hot Sauce”
Not the other Jessie J. This Jessy J is a contemporary jazz saxophonist (the J stands for jazz). She specializes in Latin Jazz and debuted at the Catalina JazzTrax Festival, which is apparently not the Catalina Wine Mixer, although I bet it’s pretty similar.
Best YouTube comment: “Hott to trot is my take with this one from Jessy with this new album release and title track. Vlopper is on the money again, thanks Bro for the upload” — smoodforlife
6. Daryl Hall, “Eyes for You”
I was just telling some Grantland staffers about when I saw Hall And Oates at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago and the stands were full of younger “ironic” Hall & Oates fans wearing fake mustaches who then booed Hall & Oates when they finished their set without playing “Private Eyes.” For the encore, Daryl Hall ignored their requests and instead sang a punishingly long and intense cover of Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia stone soul classic “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Daryl Hall rules. Maybe he even put “Eyes” in the title of this song just so fans searching for “Private Eyes” will come across it on Youtube.
Best YouTube comment: “Wow! DON”T EVEN MISS JOHN OATS….. SORRY JOHN! THIS IS A SLAM DUNK!” — awesomeness054
7. Jonathan Fritzen, “Friday Night”
I couldn’t find too much information about the Swedish-American keyboardist, nor could I locate a video for this uptempo jam, his debut single. My least favorite.
Best YouTube comment: N/A
8. Boney James, “Spin”
I would like somebody to make an edit of just the first 4 seconds of this song.
Best YouTube comment: “Another jam from the master of the sax. Going Driving tonight. When he plays the sax you can almost hear the words.” — proeyebry
9. Jill Scott, “Lovely Day”
Jill Scott is awesome but she knows better than to completely go for broke on her cover of this Bill Withers classic, as it is the most laid back of grooves. She can’t help but show off a little bit at the end and it really takes off when she starts rapping.
Best YouTube comment: “Those who disliked this song never had a lovely day in their life. Awesome remake. It’s as smooth as the original.” — rocknswift79
10. Oli Silk feat. Marc Antoine, “Latin Haze”
The smooth-jazz scene just thrives in the UK and US. Other countries need to step their smooth-jazz game up. Oli Silk made two albums with a guy named Danny Sugar as “Sugar & Silk.” That’s a hell of a name for a smooth jazz ensemble. This live performance is notable for an extremely enthusiastic conga player and for taking place at the Pizza Express Jazz Club.
Best YouTube comment: “Now thats a conga drummer who loves what he does.” — 8BitFox
Molly Lambert is a Grantland staff writer