How smooth jazz took over the ‘90s

  • Published: 03 December 2018
  • You should give smooth jazz a chance.

    Follow Vox Earworm on Facebook for more:

    Smooth jazz has gotten a bad rap for decades. It’s often associated with background music for elevators or the soundtrack at the dentist office. Smooth jazz is less a genre of music than a highly researched radio format and, although it’s heyday was in the 1990s and it’s mostly associated with Kenny G, its origins go back the mid 1960s when a select few jazz musicians crossed over to pop music and had music purists riling. Artists like Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson took the style to new heights and created the sound that we all know and love….to hate.

    How to listen to smooth jazz Spotify playlist:

    Some songs don't just stick in your head, they change the music world forever. Join Estelle Caswell on a musical journey to discover the stories behind your favorite songs.

    Check out the entire Vox Earworm playlist here:

    Note: The headline for this video has been updated since publishing.
    Previous headline: How smooth jazz took over the ‘90s is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

    Check out our full video catalog:
    Or our podcasts:

    Follow Vox on Twitter:
    Or on Facebook:
  • Video Clips Video Clips

Comments • 2 570

  • Vox
    Vox   11 months back

    Love Vox Earworm? Hop onto a live Q&A with Estelle Caswell, the creator behind the series, on December 20 at 5 PM ET by joining the Vox Video Lab, our new membership program on YouTube. She and other creators on our team will bringing you behind the scenes in a completely new way! (And if you missed the livestream, you'd still be able to see a recording).

    You can learn more about the other perks of joining the Video Lab at

    • DeluxeBestOfTheBest
      DeluxeBestOfTheBest  3 days back

      House music took over the 90s

    • Daniel Max
      Daniel Max  2 months back

      Where's the link to the promised Spotify playlist?

    • jayson biggs
      jayson biggs  4 months back

      I loathe, despise, detest smooth jazz. Words are not strong enough.

    • Mo El-Khateeb
      Mo El-Khateeb  4 months back

      Oh, I missed it. Was it recorded?

    • Joshua Colson
      Joshua Colson  8 months back

      ik it isn't exactly groundbreaking or well known but could you think of doing a video on neutral milk hotel

  • Kinks n' Curls
    Kinks n' Curls  2 hours back

    Ummm, i still listen to smooth jazz in 2019

    • Yums yums
      Yums yums  2 days back

      What's the music at 11:30? It sounds so nice

      • Katherine Pagan
        Katherine Pagan  5 days back

        That clip of the Weather Channel's old graphics with the smooth jazz was a gut-punch in my childhood. My mom always had that on in the background as she prepared us for bed every night.

        • acs197
          acs197  1 weeks back

          Kenny G. The musician Jazz music teachers and jazz history professors love to hate... Pat Metheny hates him too. Haha.

          • Best Friend
            Best Friend  1 weeks back

            I remember going to see Michael Franks at Lincoln center. Wow

            • Occupy Mars
              Occupy Mars  1 weeks back

              94.7 the wayyyeayeeeeeve

              • SuperBrictson
                SuperBrictson  2 weeks back

                Once I put a Kenny G record and literally fell asleep, the guy made jazz boring or boring jazz should I say!!!

                • notoreeuzz
                  notoreeuzz  2 weeks back

                  Nas- Understanding sampled the song @4:00

                  • TheDaveMaybe
                    TheDaveMaybe  3 weeks back

                    Smooth jazz is corny and overproduced, but sometimes, you just need to listen to music that is relaxing, you know, and there's nothing wrong with that

                    • ajaira duniya
                      ajaira duniya  3 weeks back

                      kenny g is the eminem of jazz industry.

                      • carimusic
                        carimusic  3 weeks back

                        Kenny G, el q marco la infancia de un monton de niños argentinos de los noventa cuando alquilaban vhs de Gativideo.

                        • Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson
                          Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson  3 weeks back

                          I've only gotten through one minute of this video, but I have a keen feeling that this is going to be pretty emotional <3

                          • Kace Purnomo
                            Kace Purnomo  4 weeks back

                            So basicly.. gorge benson is like a jeffre star in beauty community ? 🤔

                            • BIZ CARDOZA BEATZ
                              BIZ CARDOZA BEATZ  1 months back

                              George Benson is a beast

                              • BIZ CARDOZA BEATZ
                                BIZ CARDOZA BEATZ  1 months back

                                I heard a smooth jazz version of DJ Quik’s “Tonight”

                                • Tom Spallone
                                  Tom Spallone  1 months back

                                  I loved CD101.9 in NYC in 89/90.
                                  Thankfully I have a smooth jazz pandora station.

                                  • Jesse Hall
                                    Jesse Hall  1 months back

                                    Hotel lobby wine bar music

                                    • jerrae thomas
                                      jerrae thomas  1 months back

                                      Paul Hardcastle is a legend

                                      • Zereniti77
                                        Zereniti77  1 months back

                                        So Jazz-people hated it when Grover Washington Jr. made music that was popular? Yeah, how terrible, making music that people actually wanted to listen to...

                                        This kind of pretentiousness just really grinds my gears...

                                        • urbanistic5
                                          urbanistic5  2 months back

                                          Very cool music ...

                                          • Antoinette Miles
                                            Antoinette Miles  2 months back

                                            Boney James, Grover Washington Jr, Najee, my dad taught me to love them all

                                            • Spencer Brown
                                              Spencer Brown  2 months back

                                              It just dawned on me that Hey Arnold! had a smooth jazz soundtrack.

                                              • lester andes
                                                lester andes  2 months back

                                                In the mid-90s jazz found another syndicate by joining hiphop, ambient and 60s film soundtrack to create triphop.

                                                • Derrick J Freeman
                                                  Derrick J Freeman  2 months back

                                                  Terrific video

                                                  • gbkny1
                                                    gbkny1  2 months back

                                                    Excellent video! Here's one you should tackle. The Acid Jazz, Neo Classic soul, Drum n Bass! The Roy (Uncle Roy) Ayers/-Ubiquity/Minnie Riperton ish Weldon Irvine type music!

                                                    • Barry P
                                                      Barry P  2 months back

                                                      when did the term smooth jazz come in to play

                                                      • magistra Apta
                                                        magistra Apta  2 months back

                                                        I prefer kelpy g

                                                        • Naturally Em.
                                                          Naturally Em.  2 months back

                                                          Such nostalgia, my childhood. The music I would go to sleep to😊

                                                          • fred kelly
                                                            fred kelly  2 months back

                                                            Muzak for the ages.

                                                            • sandoval7
                                                              sandoval7  2 months back

                                                              Zero7 and other LoFi electronics like Bonobo, and Wax Tailor, took over where smooth jazz left off.

                                                              • LLL LLL
                                                                LLL LLL  2 months back

                                                                THIS WAS SO LOVELY!

                                                                • neuromantoo
                                                                  neuromantoo  2 months back

                                                                  I grew up on Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and others. I loved Wes Montgomery's first big album "The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery". When you have listened to and seen giants like, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, and Ella Fitzgerald it is really very hard to appreciate Smooth Jazz as being Jazz. A handful of smooth jazz tunes are very catchy and enjoyable, but to me 99% is impure drivel.

                                                                  • Tempestt Baggett
                                                                    Tempestt Baggett  3 months back

                                                                    All this music remind me of my father!

                                                                    • Brainstorm4300
                                                                      Brainstorm4300  3 months back

                                                                      What do you have against smooth jazz bub?

                                                                      • irene harnack
                                                                        irene harnack  3 months back

                                                                        I’ve had a love affair with Smooth Jazz since my childhood in the 1970’s and thanks to KKSF my local Smooth Jazz station, that love affair only grew and grew to the point that I rarely listened to anything or anyone else. So incredibly sad when they went completely off the air. The lack of their influence in my life makes my heart ache daily!

                                                                        • Axel Buckets
                                                                          Axel Buckets  3 months back

                                                                          I’d love to see a video about enya 👍🏼👍🏼

                                                                          • Cristobal Aguilar
                                                                            Cristobal Aguilar  3 months back

                                                                            Miles Davis is the father of smooth jazz.

                                                                            • Phil Shifley
                                                                              Phil Shifley  3 months back

                                                                              I wanted to punch Kenny G. in the face for holding that note.

                                                                              • Kyle Wakefield
                                                                                Kyle Wakefield  3 months back

                                                                                I’m surprised they didn’t mention Candy Dolpher she was also a huge 90’s “Jazz” success

                                                                                • Daniel Coe
                                                                                  Daniel Coe  3 months back

                                                                                  As it’s presented here smooth jazz is directly linked to the light instrumental pop that had been popular for many years prior to the mid 60s. Artists like Les Baxter, Martin Denny, and Henry Mancini—even Lawrence Welk! Radio needs an instrumental pop resurgence!

                                                                                  • y y
                                                                                    y y  3 months back

                                                                                    This video helped me get into jazz in the first place. I mean hardbop, post-bop, and fusion sort of jazz. I still find a lot of smooth jazz too generic, but this video also taught me to appreciate it when it's really good. It has a soft spot in my heart now. Washington Grover Jr. is a very talented saxophonist. Winelight is genuinely one of my favorite albums. Thank you for introducing me to this.

                                                                                    • Brian Cherry
                                                                                      Brian Cherry  3 months back

                                                                                      3:50 - Now THAT was hilarious.

                                                                                      • Brandon H
                                                                                        Brandon H  3 months back

                                                                                        Didn't jazz funk kind of bridge the gap between Jazz fusion and what would eventually become smooth jazz? Jazz funk is quite underrated.

                                                                                        • Max Austin
                                                                                          Max Austin  3 months back

                                                                                          At 11:55, is that Marc Anthony?

                                                                                          • Laura Carrillo
                                                                                            Laura Carrillo  3 months back

                                                                                            Thank for the playlist ;)

                                                                                            • sandelic
                                                                                              sandelic  3 months back

                                                                                              Took over 90's?
                                                                                              No, it didn't. Grunge did that.
                                                                                              And what about Sade?

                                                                                              • - VINN -
                                                                                                - VINN -  3 months back

                                                                                                94.7 The Waay-aaah-aave!