Smooth jazz is loved by or hated by jazz fans. Love it or hate it it’s here to stay as a viable expression of jazz. Maybe the Kenny G saxophone started it, maybe not. At any rate, free jazz from the 1960′s with the likes of John Coltrane is distant from the sounds of smooth jazz. With Sonare 18 a I decided to combine free jazz and smooth jazz to create “smooth free jazz”. With the piano playing of Jeremy Kurn and the drum samples of Notions J Groove, I experimented in getting a sound that’s free and smoother. After listening to the material, I’ve decided on a few rules, all jazz has rules especially the rules of free jazz.
1: The drummer needs to lay down a clean groove and vary it. The wild hedonistic drumming of 60′s free jazz isn’t allowable in smooth free jazz. And the kit needs to be quiet, loud drums aren’t smooth enough.
2: Not too many instruments. We prefer a trio consisting of electric archtop guitar, drums, and another traditional jazz instrument. I chose guitar as one of the instruments from practical reasons; I happen to play guitar.
3: No notional charts. This is improvised music. Verbal descriptions of the sound are fine, tempos and feels for the drummer to explore are good but the minimal approach is best, we want to keep it free.. Any directions should be thrown in the trash after a performance since codifying on paper leads to diminished improvisation.
4: We’re trying to avoid altered chords in solos, chordal comps, and and this isn’t one key music. We try to stretch the harmonic content through the use of major and minor chords. 7th chord are the extent of harmonic additions. A couple of things about this. This isn’t modal music at any level, this isn’t about harmonization of the scales to acquire chords.
5: Extended improvisation is out. 6 or 7 minutes maximum if things are gelling, then move on to the next groove.