Jazz Funk Fusion – A Yacht Rock Rabbit Hole

In my exploration of the Yacht Rock genre I’ve discovered a love for the outlying genres that influenced the smooth music kings. I have a newfound love and appreciation for jazz fusion, funk, and r&b. The way artists approached music in the 70’s and 80’s was truly fascinating. Steely Dan was at it’s core just two guys who surrounded themselves with the proper musicians to record each song of an album. In doing so they produced amazing albums one after an another. Similar artist would do the same, like Stanley Clarke, Grover Washington Jr., George Duke and David Sanborn. All of them produced great albums with a revolving selection of studio musicians that played or wrote exactly what each song needed. This video being case and point.

Stanley Clarke for example is a bassist. He had a solo album that people went gorilla dookie over. Masses of people bought a bassist’s solo album. Kids theses days don’t even know what a bass guitar is and wouldn’t even consider an album where the head artist doesn’t even sing let alone play the main riffs.

Grover Washington Jr and David Sanborn were saxophonists and produced several solo albums. All of them had amazing LP’s that showcased their individual instruments but never at the cost of the songs themselves. Nowadays, music is so selfish that the main guy or gal has to be front and center at all times… no matter how bad their decision may be.

Many of us wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for artists like David Sanborn, Grover Washington Jr, and Stanley Clarke. The masses may hear them as “jazz” or “elevator music” but the rest of us hear some mighty fine smooth-and-groovy-good-time tunes.

May these tracks continue to open up your mind towards all sorts of musical possibilities.

Grover Washington Jr. – Winelight

What a smooth jam. The bassist pretty much steals the show on this one but the song would be pretty lame if it wasn’t for Mr Washington’s saxophone.

Stanley Clarke – Hideaway

I wish I could listen to this song while sitting in a bamboo bungalow while watching the sunset right after I lived out a Lethal Weapon movie.

David Sanborn – Slam

It’s saxy and has all the 80’s over production that anyone could ever ask for. How I never heard it on a movie soundtrack is beyond me; this track reeks of buddy cop movie.

George Duke – Look What You Find

The intro alone is freaking amazing. Add the percussion and bam!!! You’re on an island “feeling real”. A master of the jazz funk genre, George Duke has left his mark on our musical planet for many moons to come.

Bob James – Storm King

Bob James (a keyboardist) was one smooth son-of-a-gun. He collaborated with David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, and many many more to produce numerous and wonderful smooth jazz albums. Grover Washington Jr laid down the sax track on this take from the album Three. It should be noted that this isn’t the 100% improvised jazz stuff you hear on late night public radio. There is structure and purpose in these songs. Parts maybe improvised but the ratio of planned to not-planned are always leaning towards planned. That’s what makes this music so good… it’s smooth and jazzy with a purpose.


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