Smooth moves

Two events in Richmond this weekend will mostly feature smooth jazz and R&B. As the recent Richmond Jazz Festival reminds us, whether it’s smooth or not doesn’t change the fact that — to those listeners — it’s jazz.

If you liked the Richmond Jazz Festival or just favor jazz of the smooth variety, you may be interested in two events going on this weekend in Richmond: Milestone Restaurant & Jazz Lounge’s one year anniversary party and the Jazz on the Hill 5K Music Festival. Both will feature various genres, but predominately smooth jazz, R&B, and neo-soul, and judging by the reception of the Richmond Jazz Festival last month, that’s what a lot of people consider jazz to be.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As I wrote before the Jazz Festival, “Arguing about what the festival should be called would take the immortal ability to answer the question, ‘What is jazz today?'” Some people liked what I had to say, and others didn’t, and they talked about it in over 110 comments.

For the Jazz Festival, the point wasn’t that I had a problem with the music; it was that the festival seemed to use the word “jazz” more for a state of mind than a musical description. In addition, it was almost like sending your children to kindergarten only to realize later that they’re learning to spell color “colour” and favor “favour.” It’s not incorrect, but it’s not the way you would have taught it.

Most of the people at the festival were way past their kindergarten days, though; they’ve probably been digging on smooth jazz since Sade recorded “Smooth Operator” (1984). Whether it’s smooth or not doesn’t change the fact that — to them — it’s jazz.

Same goes for events and concertgoers this weekend. While I happen to agree when Bryan Hooten commented, “The history of what we call jazz is dominated by musicians who found beauty in being adventurous, raw, and at times unsettling,” and listen to quite a bit of music that can be described with those words, that’s not to say that other folks can’t have their own definition and have a great weekend celebrating it.

On Saturday, Milestone celebrates with indoor and outdoor performances at their Best Western-embedded location in southside. View event details. On Sunday on Brown’s Island, Jazz on the Hill invites musicians to play for reps from Hidden Beach Recordings, encouraging “all artists, groups, comedians, spoken word artists” and genres including “gospel, rap, R&B, rock, neo-soul, and jazz” to perform amid 5K racers. View event details.

photo by Alan Manewitz

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Dean Christesen

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