In February 2008, jazz pianist and composer Bob Baldwin was driving through the countryside of Westchester County, N.Y., soaking in musical inspiration, when he got a depressing text message. New York’s WQCD was shutting off the smooth jazz spigot after 15 years.
He remembers that day the way other people remember the day their cat was euthanized. “Sure enough, at 4 o’clock on Feb. 5, they started playing Led Zeppelin,” Baldwin said. “Shortly after that, about 24 stations around the country flipped in a year and a half.” (Lansing´s own smooth jazz station, WJZL-FM, changed formats last December, becoming WLMI-FM, which features "classic hits" programming.)
Smooth jazz — the plugged-in, groove-based, sexpot-who-never-went-to-college sister of mainstream jazz — has to fight for respect, and not without reason. It’s a healing bath in sweet funk at best, on-hold-with-the-insurance-company music at worst.