All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

163

Greg Smith: Above The Clouds

By

Sign in to view read count
One of the oddities in musical categorization has been the establishment of the New Age and smooth jazz (aka contemporary jazz) genres. Although they originally represented very different branches of popular music, the distinction has continued to blur over the decades.

Originally, New Age music was established by musicians and entrepreneurs like Will Ackerman, who founded Windham Hill Records three decades ago. They developed a musical specialty in which acoustic players could record in solo, duet and small ensembles. Windham Hill's success was built upon this formula, with significant additions by pianists George Winston, Liz Story and Jim Brickman, and guitarists Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges and Alex DeGrassi. After a very successful decade, Windham Hill expanded to electric (and even electronic) music that in some cases produced more revenue than the original acoustic recordings.

Smooth jazz, however, evolved in a different fashion. Using the jazz fusion movement which began in the early 1970s, many musicians made the transition from mainstream jazz into a more electric format. During the 1980s, the establishment of the "Quiet Storm" R&B-type radio programming combined with fusion music, which had the effect of watering down the former. During the early 1990s, smooth jazz made great headway per the success of musicians like Kenny G, who attracted many players to this subgenre. For example, the ex-lead guitarist of Jefferson Starship, Craig Chaquico, has established himself as a leading player in both smooth jazz and New Age by dint of his eight albums since 1994 for Higher Octave Records. Chaquico has made a lot of money and has been honored with several Grammy nominations.

What does all this have to do with Florida guitarist Greg Smith's debut album, Above The Clouds? The album, which finds Smith performing fourteen of his own compositions, is typical of product in both smooth jazz and New Age music. At times, it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between these subgenres, but many of these tracks are syncopated, hook-ish tunes that likely would deserve to get airplay on the various radio stations that feature smooth jazz. Smith holds his own on the instrument with other guitarists like Peter White, Jeff Golub and Paul Brown, who are all recognized celebrities. However, the only plectrist in smooth jazz whom I find unique is Marc Antoine, who brings an acoustic fingerstyle approach into his playing.

Greg Smith has endorsements from Larry Coryell and has studied under Coryell and Pat Metheny. In the liner notes, Smith also maintains that he is comfortable playing in a different number of musical styles including straight-ahead jazz, avant-garde jazz and gutbucket blues, and I have no reason to doubt him. "Postlude: Back Into The Clouds" is played quietly and reflectively, while many of the other compositions, like "Forties," "Valgar" and "Stop Sign in Brazil," offer infectuous melodies. In fact, the latter tune has a melody line that reminds me of the 1960s pop hit "Georgy Girl."

Personally, I like listening to this stuff, but only for ten minutes at a time. In fact, my snooze alarm is set to a local smooth jazz station to ensure a fast descent into dreamsville. If only New Age music were more popular in today's hip-hop musical society, and then it might be something for dissatisfied listeners to seek out.


Track Listing: Above The Clouds; Mountain Hike; Stop Sign In Brazil; D's Dream; Lava; Appaloosa; Forties; Valgar; Summer Sand; Calamity; Chessmates; Wren Song; Figaro Tree; Postlude: Back Into The Clouds.

Personnel: Greg Smith: guitars.

Title: Above The Clouds | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds

Self Produced
2007

buy
Above The Clouds

Above The Clouds

Self Produced
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To CD/LP/Track Review
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 24, 2018
Read We Out Here CD/LP/Track Review
We Out Here
by Chris May
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Best of the Bootlegs 2017 CD/LP/Track Review
Best of the Bootlegs 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read The Asylum Years CD/LP/Track Review
The Asylum Years
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Solo Contra CD/LP/Track Review
Solo Contra
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Ellipse CD/LP/Track Review
Ellipse
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Stage 'N Studio" CD/LP/Track Review Stage 'N Studio
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Shifting Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Shifting Borders
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "The Best of Big Star" CD/LP/Track Review The Best of Big Star
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read "Stolen Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Beginnings" CD/LP/Track Review Beginnings
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 12, 2017
Read "Esperanto/Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim" CD/LP/Track Review Esperanto/Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim
by Kevin Press
Published: February 19, 2018