There’s smooth jazz, then there’s: Smooth Jazz. Chicago-native, and Art Institute alumnus, John Klemmer, thankfully, belongs to that of the latter kind. In the ’70s, he was primarily known as the go-to sax session man for all sorts of Rock and Pop musicians looking to dip their toes into a jazzy sound. What set John apart from most sax cats was his unique technique that featured him running his sax through all sorts of delay and modulation effects. By playing less, he could use the sonorous effects themselves to create an exploratory sax phrase that could fill the rest. That gliding tone, more indebted to soul music than to Coltrane dissonance, shape-shifted into forming the foundation to a sound that for-better-or-worse has remained a huge albatross many have tried to get rid of.
1975’s Touch, Wikipedia states laid the groundwork for many a bad journeys into warmed-over, smooth jazz. But what remains of the person who boldly went there? It took John two years of reflection and meditating on this idea to come about with a sound that jazz purists absolutely hated. Where was the man who arguably Miles Davis to the jazz-rock punch in Blowin’ Gold or the wailer in Oliver Nelson’s Post-Bop masterwork Black, Brown, and Beautiful. He wasn’t all about that noise, he was all about some peace.
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, it can smoothen a lot of edges, with it, and the advent of the internet, one is afforded the chance to right some wrongs. Now, you have the time and the access to instantly check out the dreamy, and utterly sublime, Touch, the a-ha moment of his two year spiritual sabbatical.
On Touch you can chance upon something like “Free Fall Lover” and instantly understand why it’s something special. A wrong I can right myself, is giving you access to the next brilliant totem in this rung of Jazz music: 1976’s Barefoot Ballet something you can’t hear anywhere else. You already know the scenery: waterfall electric pianos, gentle jazz brushes, breezy chimes, and sweet-as-honey upright basses. However, have you heard the musical foreground? Man, that one’s a beaut. Don’t tell me that’s something you can’t fall in love with, or unknowingly, already did…