Something of a smooth jazz oriented answer to the label's 2003 straight-ahead compilation Jazz After Dark, this highly engaging two-disc set features oft-played radio hits that have helped define the genre's generally easy grooves and colorful melodies. For diehard fans, smooth jazz has always been as about much about lifestyle as music, and these tracks will no doubt remind them just why they became devotees. All the early classics (circa mid-'70s to mid-'80s) are here, from Kenny G.
's "Songbird" and Dave Grusin
's "Mountain Dance" to George Benson
's "Breezin'" and Grover Washington, Jr.
's "Just the Two of Us." These are supplemented by later hits like Boney James
& Rick Braun
's "Grazin' in the Grass" and Dave Koz
's "You Make Me Smile." But it's not simply an objective survey of smoothness at its best. The collection also seems designed to promote artists in the Concord Jazz stable -- David Benoit
and Russ Freeman
, the Rippingtons
, the Braxton Brothers
, Gato Barbieri
, Eric Marienthal
, and Cassandra Reed
, among others. The good news is that the label indeed has some of the genre's greatest artists, so even these tracks represent the ongoing best smooth jazz has to offer.