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Saxophonist Kim Waters: 'All for Love'


If you're a regular listener, you know that our host, Ed Gordon, loves smooth jazz. He couldn't pass up a chance to talk with saxophonist Kim Waters, one of the biggest names in the smooth jazz universe. Ed asked Waters about critics who say this is a lighter form of jazz music. Waters says it's important to keep it simple.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KIM WATERS (Jazz Musician): I think the key is creating melodies that people can really understand, and if they can hum it, I think that you've got a better chance.

ED GORDON, host:

When you started, smooth jazz was just starting to really hit a stride. It was not nearly at the height of popularity it is today.

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: What is it about this music? You know, some people love it. Jazz snobs can't stand it.

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: But what is it about this music that has become so endearing to a certain generation?

Mr. WATERS: Well, I think the whole radio format has changed. When I first started, there was no smooth jazzes. There was just contemporary jazz. And we had to rely on a lot of R&B urban to get our record sales, but smooth jazz created a genre in which all of us as instrumentalists can have a format to go to. And I think people, as they get older, really get this format, because there's less talk and they gel with the music.

GORDON: Kim, do you get upset by those musicians who criticize this form of music?

Mr. WATERS: I really don't, because I've done the straight ahead thing as well for many years, and it's a business, you know, and I'm in the business to sell records, and let's face it, straight ahead music is just not selling, so nothing against the popularity of it, because I love to play it as well, but I have to do what's going to take care of me and my family.

GORDON: Right. Mortgage payment first, right?

Mr. WATERS: Right. You know what I mean?

(Soundbite of "Daydreaming")

Group: (Singing) Daydreaming and I'm thinking of you. Daydreaming and I'm thinking of you. Oh. Daydreaming...

GORDON: Talk to me about why you have for so long done cover songs.

Mr. WATERS: The people look forward to something that they are familiar with. On every record, I try to do one of the big ones, and, of course, on this one, "Daydreaming," a lot of people do covers and that's the way of the world, I think. You know, even back in the early days when everybody was covering Duke Ellington songs and, you know, Dizzy Gillespie, that's a format that people rely on.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer: I want to be what he wants when he wants it and whenever he needs it. ...(Unintelligible).

GORDON: One of the things that's interesting about smooth jazz, I'm wondering how you see this. Often, for years, songs would be known by titles, and you could say the title of a song...

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: ... and, boom, you'd know that song.

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: I think what the smooth jazz genre, outside of a few songs, though, it's moved to a point where people know the song.

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: They hear it. It's a favorite of theirs.

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: But if you say, `What's the name of that song?'...

Mr. WATERS: Right.

GORDON: ...they may not necessarily know immediately. Have you seen that?

Mr. WATERS: Yeah. Definitely, definitely. Because when I do shows, I do the songs, and people know the songs, but they don't know the title. So when you start playing, they say, `Ahh, yeah, I know that song.'

GORDON: What is it about this music that you think causes that?

Mr. WATERS: First of all, they don't announce it a lot on the radio. They play the song and they go right into the next number. And I don't think that people pay as much attention as they used to to the song titles, you know.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: Any song that you have always wanted to do that you haven't put on a CD yet in terms of a remake, a rendition or something that you heard that you said, `You know what? I want to put the Kim Waters spin on that'?

Mr. WATERS: Well, eventually, I would like to do like a tribute to Cannonball Adderley, because he's my favorite, and even if I have to do the traditional way, I just want to do a tribute to him because he's influenced me probably the greatest, him and Charlie Parker, and that's where I got my roots from. And I'd like to go back and say, hey, and that will quiet down a lot of the jazz hits as well, and I do have a lot of DVDs coming out that's really showcasing the jazz side of things.

GORDON: You know, you say quiet them down. Do you ever--I wonder if it's like an athlete. Do you ever want to show some of these cats who play the straight ahead jazz--because often, they'll say, `Them cats can't play.' Do you ever just want to say, `OK, come here, let me show you'?

Mr. WATERS: Well, it's--yes, I do.


Mr. WATERS: I really do. Because just like me and Kurt, I mean, we--our roots are bebop, you know, and we've done this for years, and if they listen to the records outside of those quiet melodies, they can hear it. You know, it's just not as overbearing as it may seem on the straight-ahead side, you know.

GORDON: All right. Well, Kim Waters, the new CD is "All for Love," and if it's like the 12 previous ones, you've got another hit on your hands.

Mr. WATERS: Well, thank you.

GORDON: Good to talk to you, man.

Mr. WATERS: Thank you.

GORDON: Thanks for coming in.

Mr. WATERS: Nice to be here.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. Ed Gordon will be back tomorrow. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.