About 60 years ago when I was in high school, I discovered WCPN, a public radio station out of Cleveland that played jazz. I recorded many a song to cassette and purchased more than a few albums too... if I could catch who the artist was.
One album I liked in those ancient days was Mountain Dance by Dave Grusin. It also received plenty of playtime on a newer, different jazz station over at 107.3. They liked to call themselves "The Wave." They changed ownership many times and eventually settled into what we now call smooth jazz. I didn't like "The Wave" as good as WCPN but it did have a much stronger signal.
|Take a listen: Mountain Dance by Dave Grusin|
Back then, there was no such thing as smooth jazz. Just some adventuresome stations trying to find a way to interest people in modern jazz artists. Now it didn't take long for them to figure out if they kept it mellow the station would get play in offices. Nonetheless, the selection of music as a whole was a lot more interesting than what smooth jazz is today.
|This is fun, Kenny Gorelick (aka Kenny G) on a Jeff Lorber tune called Fusion Juice|
I don't have an issue with smooth jazz. It's a lot like popular music was a few years ago and what pop-country is today. It's pretty homogeneous and heavily label influenced but for the most established artists. Thus, I lose interest. There is still some great stuff is smooth jazz like any other genre. I think I own and love every album by Fourplay for instance.
|Check out Bali Run by Fourplay.|
Dave Grusin went on to write many a movie theme and a lot more smooth jazz. Too smooth for my taste unfortunately. Along with Mountain Dance, his Homage to Duke is excellent. Jeff Lorber is producing R&B for the most part. But I still treasure his first few albums (particularly Water Sign, Wizard Island, and Galaxian).
Luckily in San Diego I've got KSDS which is the best jazz station I've heard in the country. I'm not a frequent traveler so I haven't heard them all. But KSDS, 88.3, is a treasure and you San Diegans should check it out.