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Smooth jazz


Smooth jazz

Smooth jazz is a genre of music that grew out of George Benson remains a popular Smooth Jazz artist as both a singer and guitar player.

Smooth jazz was once successful as a radio format. However, in 2007, the popularity of the format began to slide. Consequently, it was abandoned by several high-profile radio stations across the U.S.A., including WQCD (now WFAN-FM) in New York, WNUA Chicago (now WEBG), WJJZ in Philadelphia (now WISX), and KKSF (now KOSF) in San Francisco. Programmers say the audience for the format has aged beyond the prime demographic sought by advertisers. Despite the format's demise outside a handful of commercial radio outlets, a number of non-commercial and HD stations have taken up the music. It is still available on SiriusXM on Channel 66, known as "Watercolors" and on the Music Choice cable radio service. In addition, smooth jazz concerts, recording sales, as well as increased smooth jazz offerings on the Internet, continue to show strong fan support for the genre.[2]


  • Description 1
  • Origins 2
  • Derivatives 3
  • Critical and public reception 4
  • Radio 5
    • Early history 5.1
    • Smooth jazz radio today 5.2
      • Recent problems 5.2.1
      • Reasons 5.2.2
      • The Smooth AC format 5.2.3
      • Non-commercial and AM stations 5.2.4
      • Specialty shows 5.2.5
    • Syndicated shows 5.3
    • Smooth jazz radio internationally 5.4
  • List of Smooth Jazz and Smooth AC radio stations 6
    • Italy (excluding HD side channels) 6.1
    • United States (excluding HD side channels) 6.2
    • Canada 6.3
    • International 6.4
    • Cable/Satellite/Subscription 6.5
  • See also 7
  • References 8


In general a smooth jazz track is downtempo (the most widely played tracks are in the 90–105 BPM range), layering a lead, melody-playing instrument (saxophones – especially soprano and tenor – are the most popular, with guitars a close second) over a backdrop that typically consists of programmed rhythms and various synth pads and/or samples.

Smooth jazz groups or recording artists tend to play their instruments in a melodic fashion such that they are recognizable within just a few measures; this category includes names such as saxophonists Earl Klugh, Marc Antoine, Peter White, Jonathan Butler, Ray Parker, Jr, Norman Brown, Ronny Jordan, and Yves Vincent; pianists David Benoit, Bradley Joseph, and Joe Sample. Some performers, such as Dave Koz, Bob James, and Nathan East are notable for their numerous collaborations with many of the genre's big names. Groups include Fourplay, Pieces of a Dream, Acoustic Alchemy, Airborne and The Rippingtons. Female performers include Keiko Matsui, Joyce Cooling, Mindi Abair, Candy Dulfer, Sade, Brenda Russell, Pamela Williams, Regina Belle, and Anita Baker.


Smooth jazz can be traced to at least the late 1960s. Producer Creed Taylor worked with guitarist Wes Montgomery on three popular records (1967's A Day in the Life and Down Here on the Ground and 1968's Road Song) consisting of instrumental versions of familiar pop songs such as "Eleanor Rigby", "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Scarborough Fair". While jazz musicians had performed pop hits since the early 1900s, Montgomery's commercially successful albums were somewhat of a departure from this tradition, containing little of the complex improvisation of his earlier recordings and being aimed squarely at pop music audiences. Reviewing A Day In the Life, critic Scott Yannow writes, "although the jazz content is almost nil, the results are pleasing as background music."[3]

From these commercially successful records with Montgomery, Taylor founded Stanley Turrentine). The records recorded under Taylor's guidance were typically aimed as much at pop audiences as at jazz fans, with ornate string section arrangements, and a much stronger emphasis on melody than was typical in jazz. Some critics and jazz fans expressed a distaste for CTI releases, but much of the label's output is now generally well-regarded: Yanow writes, "Taylor had great success in balancing the artistic with the commercial."[4] Hubbard's funk/fusion album Red Clay, issued by CTI and containing a lengthy cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" and has been described as arguably "Hubbard's finest moment as a leader."[5]

In addition to Benson, jazz musicians in the 1970s whose style would be called smooth jazz today included Bob James, David Sanborn, Herb Alpert, Al Jarreau and Chuck Mangione.[6]


A recent development is urban jazz, which incorporates aspects of hip-hop. This style is aimed at audiences who would normally listen to radio stations that play a mix of hip-hop and R&B. Among the musicians who frequently perform urban jazz are Dave Koz, Boney James, Paul Jackson Jr., Nick Colionne, Vincent Ingala, Bobby Perry, Urban Jazz Coalition, Streetwize, and Tha' Hot Club.

Urban jazz includes artists such as Bob Baldwin, Michael Lington, Brian Bromberg, David Lanz, Jonathan Fritzen, Bobby Ricketts, Kim Waters, Daniele Caprelli, Ken Navarro, Walter Beasley, Peter White.

Another nascent trend involves the fusion of smooth jazz and electronica, the results of which are similar to what has, among electronica enthusiasts, come to be called "chill." New York's WQCD integrated chill into its format in 2004, and DJ Rafe Gomez pioneered the usage of playlists that blended tracks from both genres, in addition to selections from the 70s jazz fusion and Latin jazz, 80s jazz-funk, 90s acid jazz, and contemporary club jazz/nu jazz genres.

Critical and public reception

The Allmusic guide article on "fusion" states that "unfortunately, as it became a money-maker and as rock declined artistically from the mid-'70s on, much of what was labeled fusion was actually a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B."[7]

  1. ^ "Explore: Smooth Jazz".  
  2. ^ a b Harrington, Jim (2009-06-14). "Smooth Jazz might be in big trouble". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  3. ^ "a-day-in-the-life",
  4. ^ Creed Taylor biography
  5. ^ "red-clay",
  6. ^ Rodman, Sarah"Smooth moves: Did Kenny G ruin the notion of smooth jazz?" Chicago Sun-Times, July 23, 2006.
  7. ^ Available online at:
  8. ^ Graham, George, review.
  9. ^ "Without machines, who will feed us and clothe us and compose our smooth jazz?". 
  10. ^ Fairweather, Digby (2006-11-18). "New Jazz Station - Goodbye to the Smooth, Hello to the Classics". Fly Global Music Culture. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  11. ^ a b "Adult alternative a magnet for affluence," Billboard, 8/6/94, Vol. 106, Issue 32.
  12. ^ Feder, Robert, "It's mayhem in a.m. on six radio stations," Chicago Sun-Times, October 25, 1988.
  13. ^ Feder, Robert, "New Saturday shows follow Pee-wee's lead," Chicago Sun-Times, June 2, 1988.
  14. ^ Stark, Phyllis, "Hip jazz boosts adult alternative radio," Billboard, 4/15/95, Vol. 107, Issue 15, p. 10.
  15. ^ a b Boehlert, Eric, "Adult alternative embraces AC hitmakers," Billboard, 4/23/94, Vol. 106, Issue 17.
  16. ^ Botwin, Michele, "Paul Hardcastle's Jazzmasters are choice of adult alternative radio," Billboard, 7/16/94, Vol. 106, Issue 29.
  17. ^ Borzillo, Carrie, "Meeting adult alternative's unique needs," Billboard, 4/22/95, Vol. 107, Issue 16.
  18. ^ Stark, Phyllis, "Power ratios study finds adult alternative top gainer," Billboard, 4/1/95, Vol. 107, Issue 13.
  19. ^ Stark, Phyllis, and Eric Boehlert, "3 more stations flip to adult alternative; River City moves to purchase Keymarket," Billboard, 4/8/95, Vol. 107, Issue 14.
  20. ^ "Call Sign History (WDAF-FM)". Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  21. ^ "Call Sign History (KZJK)". Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  22. ^ "Call Sign History (WBUF)". Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  23. ^ "Call Sign History (WVMA)". Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  24. ^ a b Fisher, Marc (2008-03-09). "Smooth Jazz: Gentle Into That Good Night?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  25. ^ Hinckley, David (2011-07-14). "WRXP shifts from contemporary rock to news channel as it changes hands from Emmis to Merlin Media". Daily News (New York). 
  26. ^ Hinckley, David (2011-07-14). "WRXP shifts from contemporary rock to news channel as it changes hands from Emmis to Merlin Media". Daily News (New York). 
  27. ^ Bentley, Rick (2009-05-01). "Jazz station moves to talk format". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  28. ^ Moss, Khalid (2009-05-05). "Local radio station changes format". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  29. ^ Washington, Julie (2009-12-23). "WNWV "The Wave" to flip format from smooth jazz to adult album alternative". Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  30. ^ a b "Dave Koz says: ‘Stop complaining’ about smooth jazz radio’s decline because...". Radio Facts. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  31. ^ "the-quiet-storm",
  32. ^ The Quiet Storm With Skeeter Sanders,
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Jazz FM set to return". Radio Today. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  36. ^ "Wheatley to relaunch Jazz FM". Radio Today. 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 


Record labels

See also


  • Smooth FM in Portugal (
  • WMJX-FM 100.5 "All Smooth All Day" in Trinidad and Tobago (no relation to WMJX in Boston, Massachusetts, which programs smooth jazz on its HD2 feed)
  • 95Cinco Jazz in Costa Rica
  • Arrow Jazz FM is an internet radiostation in the Netherlands, known for the North Sea Jazz Festival.
  • KJAZZ Radio UK is an internet radio station promoting indie. smooth jazz musicians. No relation to any US station of similar or same name.


  • CKLX-FM (Planete Jazz), Montreal, Quebec (French speaking)


  • KJZY, Santa Rosa, California
  • KNIK-LP, Anchorage, Alaska - mix of jazz and blues
  • KOAZ and translator K279BP on 103.7 FM, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • KYSJ (The Wave), Coos Bay, Oregon
  • KYZK, Sun Valley, Idaho - Broadcast Architecture affiliate
  • KZIZ-AM, Seattle/Tacoma, Washington
  • WAEG (Smooth Jazz 92.3), Augusta, Georgia - Broadcast Architecture affiliate
  • WBWH-LP (Smooth 96.1), Bluffton, Ohio
  • WCHB, Detroit, Michigan - late nights only
  • WEIB, Northampton, Massachusetts - Smooth Jazz/Smooth AC/Urban AC hybrid
  • WFSK, Nashville, Tennessee
  • WJJZ, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • WNWV (107.3 The Wave), Elyria/Cleveland, Ohio - returned to the air January 4, 2012 with a Smooth AC format; went back to smooth jazz in 2013
  • WRMU, Alliance, Ohio
  • WSBZ/106.3 (The Seabreeze), Destin, Florida
  • WVSU-FM, Birmingham, Alabama
  • WRTI/90.1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

United States (excluding HD side channels)

  •, The Italian community dedicated to Smooth Jazz

Italy (excluding HD side channels)

List of Smooth Jazz and Smooth AC radio stations

In the UK however, the only radio station that regularly played smooth jazz was 102.2 Jazz FM in London and 100.4 Jazz FM in the North West. Upon takeover by the Guardian Media Group in 2003, the station started to create playlists predominantly consisting of easy listening soul and pop. Finally, in March 2004 in the North West and in June 2005 in London, the station changed its name to Smooth FM, and dropped smooth jazz from its playlists altogether. At the same time, GMG launched in some parts of the UK which after closing in some areas. However, as part of its relaunch, smooth jazz and funk has also been played alongside more mainstream and traditional jazz output as played by former UK jazz station theJazz. On October 6, 2008 was relaunched[35] under a three-year deal with The Local Radio Company to relaunch Jazz FM[36] initially with smooth jazz output in the daytime and early hours of the morning, however, smooth jazz output has since been dropped from the schedule as of September 2012.

New and innovative material from the UK, Europe and Australia has largely failed to gain airplay in the US. Well financed and often government-funded radio organisations in the UK, Europe and Australia, coupled with technical developments in the digital radio field, have led to the launch of a number of smooth jazz radio stations in these markets and their playlists are substantially more diverse than in the US.

In January 2012, Durham Radio, owners of CIWV-FM (now CHKX-FM), applied to relaunch the "Wave" format on the 88.1 FM frequency in Toronto vacated by CKLN-FM when that station was ordered off the air by the CRTC. Durham Radio was one of nearly thirty applicants for the frequency, and the only one proposing such a format; the frequency ultimately was awarded to indie rock outlet CIND-FM. Some smooth jazz is available to Toronto listeners on CKFG-FM "G98.7", a recent sign-on in late 2011 featuring an eclectic Urban AC format.

In 2011, Canada's two remaining high-profile Anglophone smooth jazz stations both terminated the format, with the aforementioned CIWV-FM switching to country music in July and CJGV-FM in Winnipeg dropping its "Groove" format on December 1, 2011, and beginning a period of stunting toward a new adult-contemporary format. The former CHMC-FM in Edmonton, Alberta began in 2005 as a smooth jazz station, but switched in 2010 to an "uptempo" Adult Hits format as CIUP-FM.

The smooth-jazz format was always less common in Canada, possibly due to Canadian Content regulations and a relative lack of high-profile Canadian smooth-jazz artists (with some exceptions such as Diana Krall and Michael Bublé, as well as soft AC artists like Celine Dion or Paul Anka). In August 2012, the format became completely extinct as a full-time offering on the Canadian airwaves, with the last remaining holdout, Francophone CKLX-FM in Montreal, switching to a combination of rock music and talk programming. However, Francophone outlet CHLX-FM in Gatineau, Quebec (serving the Ottawa, Ontario market) continues to feature some smooth jazz music in its playlist.

Smooth jazz radio internationally

Until September 30, 2008, Jones Radio Networks also distributed a smooth-jazz format via satellite. This network was discontinued following Jones Radio Networks' purchase by Triton Media Group, owners of the Dial Global stable of 24/7 formats, and Triton's decision to eliminate Smooth Jazz from its portfolio. Jones' Smooth Jazz network had dwindled to only a handful of affiliates at the time the format was discontinued; most of the remaining Jones stations (i.e. WJZL and WQJZ) were switched over to Broadcast Architecture's network.

Elements of the smooth jazz format are also present in the Timeless Cool format distributed by Timeless Cool Music, Inc., which features a mixture of smooth and traditional jazz with adult standards by artists like Ray Charles, Madeleine Peyroux, and Bobby Darin and adult alternative performers such as Jack Johnson, Amy Winehouse, and Annie Lennox. However, this format has failed to take off and is as of August 2011 aired on only a small handful of stations nationwide.

Other weekly syndicated smooth jazz radio shows include the long running Art Good's Jazztrax, "Chill" with saxophonist Mindi Abair, Ramsey Lewis' "Legends Of Jazz" and the weekly two-hour Dave Koz Radio Show. In the summer of 2007, Broadcast Architecture launched the format's first ever national countdown show, the "Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown with Allen Kepler". The Smooth Jazz Top 20 now airs in more than 20 radio stations.

The current air talent lineup on the Smooth Jazz and Smooth AC Networks includes Kenny G and Sandy Kovach (formerly of WVMV "V98.7" Detroit) mornings, Miranda Wilson middays, Allan Kepler during afternoon drive, and Maria Lopez evenings and overnights, with weekend personalities including Norman Brown, Paul Hardcastle, and Allan Kepler's Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown. Top-selling saxophonist Dave Koz was a former air personality on the Smooth Jazz and Smooth AC networks.

In response to the growing trend toward Smooth AC, Broadcast Architecture has also begun marketing a Smooth AC Network (formerly named "Chillout Radio Network", despite the lack of so-called chill music in the network's playlist, and then renamed "Bright Radio Network" before the final name change to "Smooth AC") featuring the same air talent as the Smooth Jazz Network. The first Smooth AC Network affiliated station was KOCD in the Tulsa, Oklahoma market, but that station has since switched format to adult hits. Currently the Smooth AC network has no full-time affiliate; WXJZ in Gainesville and WNWV in Cleveland program the Smooth AC Network at nights only, and former Smooth AC network affiliates WAUN, KYOT and WLFM-LP (now WRME-LP) switched to other formats (with WAUN switching back to the Smooth Jazz Network).

In addition to WAUN and WAEG, the Smooth Jazz Network is also carried on KQJZ in Kalispell, Montana; KMYT in Temecula, California; KYZK in Sun Valley, translator W273CA "102.5 WLOQ" in Orlando, Florida, simulcasting the HD-2 feed of adult contemporary station WMGF-FM; and on a part-time basis on WCHB in Detroit and KOY in Phoenix, Arizona (both airing Smooth Jazz Network programming at nights during the week with extended hours on weekends). It is also programmed on HD Radio subchannels in various markets, including San Francisco, Washington, Miami, Baltimore, Houston, Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis, San Antonio, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is available for streaming via Clear Channel Communications' iHeartRadio application.

In January 2007,[34] Broadcast Architecture launched the satellite-delivered Smooth Jazz Network, featuring smooth jazz artists Dave Koz, Kenny G, Norman Brown, Brian Culbertson, Paul Hardcastle and Ramsey Lewis as on-air hosts. The network soon spread to 25 markets across the US, with among its more notable affiliates including WAUN in Green Bay, Wisconsin. WLFM-LP in Chicago also began as a 100% satellite-fed Broadcast Architecture affiliate, but soon went to mainly local programming during weekdays with the satellite feed filling most of the remainder of the schedule. Of these stations, only WAEG and WAUN continue to broadcast the Smooth Jazz Network (WAUN actually dropped it for a time to switch to the related Smooth AC format, but returned to the Smooth Jazz Network by June 2012); WJCD, WQJZ, WJZL, WKYL, KJZS, WLFM and KORL have all switched to other formats, although KORL continues to broadcast Smooth Jazz Network programming on an HD Radio side channel which is simulcast on an analog translator. In Reno, the format was briefly revived on an AM station, which dropped it in the summer of 2012. WLFM-LP moved to the related Smooth AC format for a time, but had evolved back to Smooth Jazz at the time it dropped the format in May 2012 to become WKQX-LP.

Syndicated shows

It is not uncommon for adult contemporary music or urban AC stations to devote some of their weekend programming to the format in an effort to serve a niche market without devoting an entire station to it. Some examples include WRRM Warm 98 in Cincinnati, WZUN in Syracuse, New York, KVIL in Dallas, Texas, WMXC in Mobile, Alabama, and WSOL in Jacksonville, Florida. An oddity in this category is WLAV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a classic rock station which features a "cool jazz" brunch show on Sunday mornings. WZTK in Burlington, North Carolina, a former talk station which switched in 2012 to regional Mexican programming, also formerly devoted most of its weekend programming to smooth jazz, using programming provided by Dial Global and playing much of the library from the now-defunct Jones Radio Network Smooth Jazz format.

Specialty shows

In some markets, the smooth jazz format has also found a new home on the AM dial. The format had brief comebacks on the AM dial in Reno, Nevada, Phoenix, Arizona (nights and weekends), and Atlanta, Georgia (the latter during weekends only). Among the markets featuring full-time AM smooth jazz outlets are Seattle, Washington (KZIZ 1560 AM), Springfield, Missouri (KBFL 1060 AM), and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (WDAS 1480 AM, simulcasting WISX 106.1 FM HD2). In Detroit, Michigan, WCHB 1200 AM also programs smooth jazz during the evening and overnight hours.

One of the longest-running non-commercial smooth jazz radio programs in the United States is "The Quiet Storm,"[31] which airs weekly on the community-based WGDR in Plainfield, Vermont and its sister station, WGDH in Hardwick, Vermont, both owned by Goddard College. Launched in 1998 and hosted by Skeeter Sanders, "The Quiet Storm" is actually a 50-50 mix of smooth jazz and soft R&B, presented in "Triple-A" (Album Adult Alternative) style, with a strong emphasis on "B" and "C" album tracks that most commercial stations often ignore. The show takes its name from the early-evening program pioneered in 1976 by WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C. and duplicated with great success as a 24-hour format three years later by KBLX-FM in San Francisco (Entercom Broadcasting dropped KBLX's quiet-storm format after it purchased the station in April 2012 following the bankruptcy of former owner Inner City Broadcasting in favor of a more generic Urban AC sound). WGDR's "Quiet Storm" is one of the station's most popular music programs, based on a 2010 listener survey, and is the only program of its kind on the air in northern New England. In September 2011, a syndicated version of Sanders' program began broadcasting on the Internet-only Fishbowl Radio Network[32] and ran for three years, until November 2014. In January 2015, the program began streaming on[33] It is also syndicated to terrestrial radio stations across the United States affiliated with the Pacifica Radio Network.

By 2009, as smooth jazz continued its rapid decline on the commercial radio airwaves, a growing number of non-commercial stations have taken up the music and added it to their programming. Among non-commercial stations now playing smooth jazz include WVSU in Birmingham, Alabama; WFSS in Fayetteville, North Carolina; WRMU in Alliance, Ohio; WCRX-LP in Columbus, Ohio; WFSK in Nashville, Tennessee; KBBG in Waterloo, Iowa; KUNV in Las Vegas, Nevada; WONB in Ada, Ohio (on Sundays); LPFM broadcaster WGRV-LP in Melbourne, Florida, and nearby communities via translators; and most recently, WBWH-LP in Bluffton, Ohio, which has extended its Sunday-night show "The Chillout Sessions" (featuring a mix of smooth jazz, smooth vocals, and chill music, hosted by Donald Isaac) into its primary format as of October 2011. In addition, some commercial stations which present the format on their HD side channels, such as KKCW in Portland, Oregon, and WDZH in Detroit, do so without commercial interruption.

Non-commercial and AM stations

Other former smooth-jazz stations have evolved to Rhythmic Oldies formats while maintaining their previous call letters, notably KOAS in Las Vegas and KYOT (now known as "Eva") in Phoenix. KOAS saw its ratings in the 25-54 age demographics improve after moving to its "old school" format.

KTWV and KIFM continue to program "traditional" smooth jazz formats on HD subchannels; KIFM's HD-2 features "Pure Smooth Jazz," while KTWV programs "Wave Classics," featuring vintage smooth jazz cuts no longer played on the main station, on its HD-2 feed.

One of the first high-profile stations to adopt the Smooth AC approach was pioneering smooth-jazz station KTWV in Los Angeles ("The Wave"), under new program director Jhani Kaye. KTWV's transition was successful in improving the station's 25-54 ratings, and since then several other smooth-jazz stations have made a similar transition, including the late WLFM-LP in Chicago; WXJZ in Gainesville, Florida; KIFM in San Diego; and most recently, WNWV in Cleveland, Ohio, which relaunched under its former "107-3 The Wave" identity as a Smooth AC on January 4, 2012; WXJZ and KIFM have switched to other formats, while KTWV has continued to progressively downplay (while not entirely eliminating) instrumental music in its shift to a "Smooth R&B" Urban AC format. KJZY in the Santa Rosa, California market continues as a Smooth AC format branded as "Sonoma County's Smooth Jazz," supplementing the format with some adult standards artists like Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, and Frank Sinatra.

One tack several smooth jazz stations have taken, in order to attract more younger listeners (particularly in the important 25-54 age demographic) without completely alienating jazz fans, is to evolve the format into a hybrid known as Smooth Adult Contemporary. Smooth AC stations play more of the vocalists popular on smooth jazz stations, such as Luther Vandross, Sade, Robin Thicke, Anita Baker, and Basia, while incorporating more mainstream and urban AC material from artists such as Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, and Maroon 5 and limiting instrumentals to two or three cuts an hour (and usually restricting airplay of instrumentals to artists such as Kenny G, Dave Koz and Chuck Mangione who have had crossover pop success). In markets where they exist, Smooth AC stations are meant to fill a void for soft music created by the mainstream Adult Contemporary format's overall move toward more uptempo adult Top-40 musical fare.

The Smooth AC format

Some of the former terrestrial smooth jazz stations, including the former KHJZ in Houston, the former WVMV in Detroit, and the former WLVE in Miami continue to offer smooth jazz programming as Internet streams or as offerings on their HD subchannels. Some stations which are still providing smooth jazz and are still popular in their respective markets, including Jazz FM in the United Kingdom used to integrate traditional and popular jazz and jazz standards alongside smooth jazz tracks in their playlists.[24]

American saxophonist Dave Koz responded back in November 2009 to the claims that the smooth jazz radio genre was in decline by stating that although the audience has aged and not enough young people were embracing the format, making it harder to gain advertising revenue, the genre is still seeing the support in record sales and audiences at shows. He also suggested that the format may move from a genre covered by big FM stations to one covered by smaller stations, in particular Internet radio stations, which were showing an increase in popularity.[30]

The decline in popularity of the smooth jazz format has been blamed on a variety of factors, including lack of exposing compelling new music, over-reliance on instrumental cover versions of pop songs similar to the mostly-defunct Beautiful Music format, and Arbitron's PPM reports showing lower ratings[27] returns for smooth jazz stations than the traditional diary system had. Lack of revenue and the genre not being viable during the current economic crisis have also been cited as reasons.[28] Many purists of the format also feel that the smooth jazz interpretation has strayed too far from its roots in contemporary jazz and new age music by over-relying on soft urban vocals, with R&B artists such as Beyoncé Knowles and Aretha Franklin now staples of many smooth-jazz playlists. Others indicate that the repetition of the same tracks on stations—particularly those owned by Clear Channel Communications[2]—and the reduction of artists recording tracks resulting in fewer tracks for airplay[29] may have also contributed to the decline.


In January 2012, in a rare case, a former smooth jazz station actually returned to its former format after the replacement format had failed. WNWV-FM in Cleveland had dropped its long-running "Wave" smooth-jazz format in favor of adult alternative after Christmas of 2009, under the ownership of Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting. In January 4, 2012, new owners Rubber City Radio Group restored the "Wave" format to the analog radio dial in Cleveland as a Smooth AC outlet, after a period of stunting with Christmas music (though as of 2013 it has returned to its original smooth jazz format).

However, smooth jazz or some variant thereof has made a minor comeback in some markets, via AM stations (see below), FM HD Radio side channel/analog translator combos, or so-called "Franken-FM's" (actually low-power analog television stations on Channel 6 which serve a double function as radio stations due to the audio portion of the broadcast being audible on 87.75 MHz, possible because the FCC has not yet required low-power TV stations to convert to digital transmission). Such "Franken-FM's" have popped up in Chicago (WLFM-LP, which dropped the format in May 2012 for alternative rock as WKQX-LP; the former 87.7 format continues on WTMX 101.9 HD2) and Anchorage, Alaska (KNIK-LP, using the call sign of a former smooth jazz station there which had flipped to adult contemporary). FM HD side channel/analog translator combos also briefly allowed the format to return to the airwaves in markets such as Detroit, Orlando, Florida, and Honolulu, Hawaii (none of these side channel/analog translator combos are still in operation).

Canada's highest-profile smooth jazz station, CIWV-FM, now CHKX-FM in Hamilton, Ontario, abandoned the format in late July 2011, switching to country music instead and moving the jazz format to an online stream only. And after Christmas 2011, CJGV-FM, the last English-language smooth jazz station in Canada, switched to an adult contemporary format, leaving French-language CKLX-FM in Montreal, Quebec as the only remaining station with the format in Canada.

Smooth jazz has also disappeared from commercial radio in most other major or medium-sized markets, including Miami, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minneapolis/St. Paul; Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Houston, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Dayton, Milwaukee, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Lansing, Modesto, and most recently, Orlando and Harrisburg. Many of these stations continue to program smooth jazz via HD subchannels or online streams. For example, KKHI 101.9 in Denver, Colorado switched from smooth jazz to religious programming in May 2010. The smooth jazz format was preserved via internet radio on which is an online incarnation of the FM station. With the demise of New York's WQCD and Albany's WZMR as smooth-jazz stations, WEIB-FM in Northampton, Massachusetts is the only surviving commercial smooth-jazz radio station in the northeastern United States.

The switch from smooth jazz WQCD to album-rock WRXP proved to be a ratings disaster, however. As a rock station, WRXP was something of an anachronism in New York—a city long dominated by urban, R&B and hip-hop-formatted stations such as WBLS, WRKS ("Kiss FM"; now WEPN-FM) and WHTZ. Most of WRXP's target audience had long ago fled to the suburbs. In July 2011, WRXP was sold to Merlin Media, which turned it into an all-news station and became WEMP,[25] only to change it back to rock (along with the WRXP call letters) after the all-news format was an even larger failure. "This change might seem to again support the often-heard mantra that when it comes to radio music, New York is a rhythm town, not a rock town", the New York Daily News noted.[26] The station became all-sports WFAN-FM in November 2012.

Three of the originators of the smooth jazz format - WQCD in New York City, WNUA in Chicago, and KKSF in San Francisco - have all changed format in the last several years. WQCD became album-rocker WRXP on February 5, 2008; KKSF shifted to classic rock as "The Band" on May 18, 2009; and just four days later, WNUA abruptly dropped the format for "Mega" (a Spanish-language pop format). The demise of these pioneering smooth jazz stations seems particularly indicative of the problems within the format.

The smooth jazz radio format continued to grow and thrive through the 1990s and early 2000s, though in the late 2000s most markets began losing smooth jazz stations. In a number of media markets, this format is no longer available over the air except online or on HD Radio.[24] Currently, the most prominent of the few remaining commercial (and independently-programmed) smooth jazz stations are WSBZ "The Seabreeze" in Destin, Florida, WEIB in Northampton, Massachusetts, and KYSJ in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Recent problems

Smooth jazz radio today

Smooth Jazz has gone on to be recognized as a successful radio format, first emerging in name in the mid- to late-1980s (often, they would be transitioned from existing "new-age" stations) and subsequently spreading into most radio markets within the United States and many without.

Smooth jazz (still referred to as "adult alternative" in Billboard until the magazine began using the term for album alternative[17]) experienced the largest increase in "power ratio" in 1994; the term refers to the relationship between audience share and advertising revenue. Although the format was increasing in popularity, M Street Journal counted 43 stations in the format, down from 64 in 1989. But new stations such as KKJZ in Portland, Oregon and KLJZ in New Orleans experienced immediate success.[18] New stations in 1995 included KCIY in Kansas City, Missouri; KMJZ in Minneapolis; WSJZ in Buffalo, New York; and WJCD in Norfolk, Virginia.[19][20][21][22][23]

The smooth jazz music mix included 70 percent instrumentals and 30 percent vocals. Programmers no longer regarded the music as merely "background". The format's most successful stations included WNUA, KKSF, KOAI, WNWV and KIFM, as well as WQCD, which had a significant rating increase in Fall 1993.[15]

Over a six-year period ending in 1993, the format increased its audience by 140 percent, and from 1992 to 1993, by 67 percent. Listeners were 71 percent white and 28 percent black. Advertisers recognized that adult alternative music tended to attract buyers of upscale items.[11] The format became much more jazz-oriented, with very little new age, and even while emphasizing young artists, the format kept its heritage acts as well.[14] However, smooth jazz did add artists from adult contemporary music to increase its popularity with a larger audience; artists included Mariah Carey, Bonnie Raitt, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Michael Bolton, Tina Turner, and Janet Jackson.[15] The smooth jazz format also added R & B; according to Cary Goldberg of JVC, Paul Hardcastle "brought a sophisticated, urban groove" to the format. She said, "Instead of bringing jazz to R&B, he's brought an R&B groove to contemporary jazz."[16]

In the late 1980s, research firm Cody/Leach conducted a study for WNUA/Chicago; it was through the verbatim responses from listeners that the name "Smooth Jazz" was identified. WNUA then adopted the slogan "Smooth Rock and Smooth Jazz",[12] replacing the old slogan "Music for a New Age" as the station added more vocals and dropped most "avant-garde" instrumentals.[13] Under the direction of General Manager John Gehron, "Smooth Rock" was dropped. Cody is credited with making Smooth Jazz a household name, giving rise to its nationwide proliferation through the firm Broadcast Architecture, the widely syndicated “The Jazz Show with David Sanborn” and his association with saxophonist Dave Koz. Cody was also responsible for overseeing the launch of the now defunct Satellite Music Network's syndicated "Wave" format.

After programmer Frank Cody began "The Wave" in Los Angeles and the simultaneous KIFM (San Diego) and the eclectic KKSF (San Francisco), the number of stations banking on "The Wave's" softer sound grew quickly. Those included "Breezin' 100.7" in Milwaukee and KHIH in Denver programmed by consultant Gary Guthrie, WNUA (Chicago) consulted by Cody, WVAE (a short-lived Wave network affiliate from 1987–89) and WJZZ in Detroit, WNWV in Cleveland (which began as a Wave affiliate but eventually moved to local programming), Ohio, and the re-launch of WQCD (CD101.9), New York. Also Love94FM [WWWL, later WLVE] in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, an early innovator with its "Sunday Morning Jazz" show went totally smooth jazz by 1990, not long after The Wave in Los Angeles had switched to the format. The format had been deemed "New Age" originally and radio stations like WNUA Chicago and KNUA Seattle emulated the phrase in their call letters. For a short time in 1987-1988, Chicago actually had two such stations, as the "Wave" network was also heard on WTWV-FM, licensed to suburban Des Plaines (now WPPN).

In 1983, "adult alternative" became a well-defined radio format, with jazz, New Age music and adult contemporary music. In 1987, the switch by album-oriented rock KMET in Los Angeles to KTWV "The Wave" made the format more popular.[11]

Smooth jazz as a Pat Metheny that were crossing over to more popular formats. Other early pioneers included WLOQ in Orlando, Florida (which began programming such a format in 1977), Russ Davis in Atlanta and "Jazz Flavours", Al Winters and "The Quiet Storm", Ross Block, Dave Caprita and Stu Grant at Love 94FM with "Sunday Morning Jazz" in Miami and Art Good at KIFM San Diego with "Lights Out San Diego".

Early history


In the [10]

Smooth jazz is satirized in an episode of Futurama as being composed by machines.[9]


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