Smooth jazz is a chameleon. It is stepping out of a club and into the cool streets of New York City at dawn. It is sitting behind a pair of retro-square sunglasses while sipping a mojito in Majorca. It’s coffee that’s gone cold, sheets that are still warm, rivulets of rain down a window, watching a pretty woman dance. It is not your grandfather’s jazz. But there’s a good chance he’d get the groove.
Sandy Shore got it really early. Raised in Pacific Grove, she was on the radio on Cannery Row at 15 and, ultimately, throughout California and across the country, with a voice like a warm blend of brown sugar and butter. Music created the rhythm of her life and set the tone for her future.
Shore was barely out of her 20s when she established Sandy Shore Productions, a concert production company dedicated to bringing the sound of smooth jazz influencers rhythm & blues, funk, rock & roll, and jazz alive on the Monterey Peninsula. Her mission was to merge audiences and give them up-front access to fantastic artists in inspired settings by the bay. It worked.
Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Keiko Matsui, Michael MacDonald, George Benson, and Dave Koz were among the many who came when Shore called, to play their music and get folks up and off their seats. Yet after seven straight summers of Concerts by the Bay, plus a couple more inland, Shore and her partner, artist, singer, songwriter and innovator Donna K. Phillips, began working on another way to keep smooth jazz current, relevant and accessible to a larger – global – audience.
“Radio stations had begun flipping formats, taking jazz away,” said Shore who, as a radio personality, was well aware of the shift. “Concert-goers kept asking us to bring jazz back, but we didn’t own a station. We knew we needed a way to reach our listeners directly.”
Phillips and Shore collected email addresses from their concert audiences. For two years they worked on building a library of music and innovating a different music format. In 2000, they started streaming smooth jazz live on the Internet through SmoothJazz.com.
“Quite simply, I saw it,” said Shore, who often has been heralded as a visionary regarding Internet broadcasting and music programming. “What the Internet meant to me was radio enhanced by visuals to bring the lifestyle vibe of contemporary jazz to millions around the world. I knew it was limitless, based on where technology could take us.”
Today, the world’s No. 1 Smooth Jazz radio station, which was created in the living room of a tiny Pacific Grove cottage, broadcasts online and via a mobile app, from the Central Coast to the world. SmoothJazz.com attracts more than 20 million annual listeners in more than 200 countries.
“Nearly 20 years later, our vision,” said Shore, “is still to enhance the intimacy of radio by creating an exciting, lifestyle experience, leveraging today’s technology, entertainment and design. Artfully mixing relaxing music, we connect with an extremely responsive audience around the world.”
SmoothJazz.com Global, graphically depicted by a colorful globe with a guitar-shaped continent, accesses a global community of jazz music. Shore describes it as a diverse music mix of contemporary beats, sexy grooves and soulful vocals – a modern and robust blend that includes the “relevance of pop and the depth of jazz.”
Sister station SmoothLounge.com offers a loosely defined style of popular music, characterized by slow tempos and relaxed moods. Shore sees it as a “chilled-out, vibey mix of organic beats,” mostly instrumental music that has a stylish, trendy, European sense, with a relaxing, down-tempo mix of music that leans a little younger.
“In leaving FM radio behind,” said Phillips, “we have sought to fashion a new landscape suited to a more modern lifestyle, which is more artful, more relevant to the diversity of smooth jazz listeners around the world.”
In keeping with this global access, SmoothTravel.net connects listeners to jazz events around the world, partnering with more than 100 organizations to reach an international audience.
“Ultimately,” said Shore, “SmoothJazz.com is really about Smooth Global Living. This multimedia platform is more than music; it’s an international lifestyle.”