Smooth jazz, transnationalism and jazz's mobile representations
Kristin McGee (University of Groningen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the gendered and cultural representations of smooth jazz. In particular, the promotion of fusion and "cross-over" musicality are highlighted as important "multi-cultural" and gendered conceptions in the international sites of smooth jazz production, consumption, and creativity.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the gendered and cultural representations of smooth jazz, one of the most commercially viable musical genres to emerge during the last two decades. In particular, I investigate the promotion of fusion and "cross-over" in jazz music as important "multi-cultural" and gendered conceptions in the international sites of smooth jazz production, consumption, and creativity. During the recording crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s, the promotion of cross-over jazz artists facilitated a broader rooster of mixed-genre performers within the recording divisions of the major jazz record companies like Verve and Blue Note. These new artists successfully sold records but also acquired prestige and financial gain in the mass mediated jazz sites of adult contemporary radio and international jazz festivals, as well as newer performance sites including smooth jazz vacation destinations and internet sites. During the 1990s, smooth jazz extended beyond its prior musical formula signifying not only a radio format and musical descriptor but eliciting a particular cosmopolitan attitude towards living, consumption, and cultural taste and in turn spawning new sites of smooth jazz performance. In Miami, for example, all-star smooth jazz cruises attracted middle and upper class contemporary jazz fans, chartering both musicians and tourists to America's multi-cultural tropical ports like Key West and Coco Cay in the Bahamas. In California, the birthplace of smooth jazz, wine festivals provided both sophisticated meeting points and epicurial delicacies for an upwardly mobile, culturally diverse group of music lovers and "good living" enthusiasts. Indeed, contemporary sites of smooth jazz production embrace fluid and sometimes transient trajectories such as those provided by traveling jazz festivals, ocean cruises and seasonal wine harvests. This paper explores some of these symbolic constructions and mobile sites as well as some of smooth jazz's iconic 1980's recordings including Candy Dulfer and Dave Stewart's "Lili Was Here." Since then, Dulfer has performed in smooth jazz's mobile performative sites while also prominently contributnig to a variety of cross-over musical projects. Her performances have continually reflected developments in contemporary jazz and popular music within the context of an increasingly mass-mediated and transnational music world.
Sounding ethnography: mutuality and diversity in musical life