MOST serious jazz people detest "smooth jazz" -- let's get this out of the way at the beginning. (here's an example.)
but recently i sat down to talk to david benoit, the pianist who is one of the key figures in the movement, and quite enjoyed myself. why? because we mostly talked about classical music. and i was surprised to find that this exemplar of the pleasant and tension-free had been moved at an early age by the work of frank zappa. (he also digs bill evans, but who doesnt?)
benoit has been building a parallel career in classical music, as a composer and conductor, with guidance from kent nagano, the brilliant conductor who departed LA Opera a few years back. (i've never heard german music sound so graceful and translucent and well, french, and very much miss kent's baton.)
HERE is my story on benoit, with some comments from nagano.