Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Smooth jazz forced to ''chill'' out

Posted on

Smooth jazz and Kenny G. go together like…chardonnay and sunsets. So why has New York City’s most popular smooth-jazz radio station banished the curly-tressed titan of soporific saxophone from its playlist? ”The smooth-jazz format is aging. It’s gonna die out as its audience gets older,” says Blake Lawrence, program director of WQCD (101.9 FM). ”And Kenny G is a poster child for smooth jazz.” Which is why the station recently moved to a mix of 70 percent smooth jazz and 30 percent what has been christened ”chill” — electronic acts like DJ duo Thievery Corporation, ethnic lounge faves the Brazilian Girls, and U.K. trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack. WQCD even renamed itself ”New York Chill” in honor of the new format.

”I haven’t seen enthusiasm for a genre from such a wide range of people in a long time,” says Frank Cody of L.A.’s The Wave (KTWV 94.7 FM). He should know — he created the smooth-jazz format in the ’80s. Several other stations have picked up on chill, though most aren’t blowing off Kenny G. entirely — not yet, anyway. ”We’re testing the waters,” says Mike Vasquez, program director at KIFM 98.1 FM in San Diego. ”Still, my gut tells me that chill is something I need to pay attention to.”

It’s too soon to tell whether chill will get the cold shoulder from listeners, but Lawrence says advertisers have reacted positively. In addition, a weekly show, Chill With Chris Botti, on which the trumpet-playing heartthrob spins such hipsters as Zero 7 and Moby, has been syndicated to 14 smooth-jazz stations. ”It’s the logical step for adults who want to broaden their horizons a bit from jazz,” says Botti. ”It acts as real sensual wallpaper: It doesn’t distract you too much, and it puts you in a great mood.”

But being likened to aural wallpaper troubles some being hotly pursued by chill radio. ”If there’s a new outlet for our music…that’s a positive thing,” says Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation. ”But you have to be very wary of being classified.” Just ask Kenny G.

Comments