Smooth Jazz is an outgrowth of Jazz 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 pop, 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.
The sound is almost entirely built around a simple and repeating melody taking the forefront (soprano saxophone being the common lead), and backed by (often synthesized) Funk, Pop, or Rhythm & Blues rhythms. Soloing and improvisations are practically non-existent, as the music is meant to be as pleasant and easily absorbed as possible. Often considered a derisive term, Smooth Jazz is somewhat synonymous with 'muzak' or 'elevator music', and is closely related to Adult Contemporary and Sophisti-Pop for its common theme of remaking popular songs into the Smooth Jazz style. George Benson and Pat Metheny were early popularizers of the style.
Smooth jazz is a commercially oriented, crossover jazz which came to prominence in the 1980s, displacing the more venturesome jazz fusion from which it emerged. It avoids the improvisational "risk-taking" of jazz fusion, emphasizing melodic form. Much of the music was initially "a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B"
Smooth jazz grew in popularity in the 1980s as Anita Baker, Sade, Al Jarreau and Grover Washington Jr. released multiple hit songs. Some other popular names in this music genre include George Benson, David Sanborn, Keiko Matsui, etc.
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