The Year That Was 2015

By Phillip Martin

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope that through the first days of 2016 you have good health and an optimistic outlook on the leap year we’ve entered in. Before we look ahead to the next 12 months, allow me to share some interesting tidbits from 2015 in the world of smooth jazz.

Top Artists of 2015

Rick Braun. Image obtained from Google images.

Trumpet player Rick Braun finished at No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end chart for smooth jazz song artists. The other nine round out the top ten as follows:

2. Gerald Albright

3. Boney James

4. Jonathan Butler

5. Nick Colionne

6. Gregg Karukas

7. Peter White

8. Jeff Golub

9. Cindy Bradley

10. Vincent Ingala

Top Smooth Jazz Songs of 2015

Richard Elliot. Google Images.
Boney James. Google Images.

Boney James and Richard Elliot both tied for songs that topped the Billboard charts in longest consecutive weeks (six):

  • “Lip Service” by Richard Elliot (Feb. 7 — March 14)
  • “Drumline” by Boney James (May 23 — June 27)

Coming in second, “Swagster” by Jeff Golub, featuring Philippe Saisse & Kirk Whalum, topped in five consecutive weeks (Sept. 12 —Oct. 3).

Brian Culbertson’s “Think Free (Live),” while it did not top the charts the longest in consecutive weeks, did also reach No. 1 in six weeks of 2015 (March 21 – April 18, May 9). His latest new song also topped Billboard’s year-end smooth jazz chart for the year.

Top Smooth Jazz Albums of 2015

futuresoul (Concord Music Group) by Boney James  topped the list on’s “2015 Year End Album Chart.” 

Album cover of by Boney James. Google Images.
Album cover of by Boney James. Google Images.

The other nine albums in the top ten are the following:

2. Can You Feel It by Rick Braun (Artistry)

3.  Fritzenized by Jonathan Fritzen (Nordic Night Records)

4.  Slam Dunk by Gerald Albright (Heads Up)

5.  Coast To Coast by Vincent Ingala (Independent)

6.  Smile by Peter White (Heads Up / CMG)

7.  Got 2 Be Groovin’ by Euge Groove (Shanachie)

8.  Soul Appeal  by Michael Lington (Copenhagen Music)

9.  Full Tank 2.0 by Ben Tankard (ben-jammin)

10. Bliss by Cindy Bradley (Trippin’ N Rhythm Records)

Top Albums —Honorable Mentions

Guitarist Jeff Golub died on New Year’s Day 2015 due to battling a rare brain disorder, known as progressive supranuclear palsy. The smooth jazz world missed his presence. Therefore, it seemed fitting that The Vault (eOne Music), a posthumous album by Golub, ranked No. 13 on’s “2015 Year End Album Chart.”

Jeff Golub. Google Images.
Jeff Golub. Google Images.

 Brian Culbertson’s Live – 2oth Anniversary Tour album finished No. 25. He and his touring band recorded tracks for this album live in Yoshi’s, a popular jazz club in Oakland, CA. Like his Live From The Inside album, released in 2009, Culbertson’s most recent album features some of his well-known hits from his 20-year career in professional music.

 Soul Traveler by Marion Meadows ranked No. 12. Many listeners have considered Meadows a staple to smooth jazz over the years for his sublime soprano sax playing. “Humanity,” his duet with Lamar Gaines, finished No. 9 on Billboard’s year-song list.

Smooth Jazz Awards in 2015

57th Grammy Awards

Contemporary Instrumental Album nominees included:

  • Wild Heart by Mindi Abair
  • Slam Dunk by Gerald Albright
  • Nathan East by Nathan East
  • Jazz Funk Soul by Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb and Everette Harp

Chick Corea won in two categories:

  • Best Improvised Jazz Solo — for the song “Fingerprints”
  • Best Instrumental Jazz Album — Trilogy by Chick Corea Trio

58th Grammy Award nominations for 2016

In Dec. 2015, Afrodeezia, by Marcus Miller, and The Gospel According To Jazz, Chapter IV, by Kirk Whalum were nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for the upcoming Grammy’s.

Other News in Smooth Jazz

Multi-talented sax player and vocalist Jessy J announced her engagement to her boyfriend David Margolis on Dec. 6 this past year. Margolis proposed to her while riding the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, according to her blog,

Jessy J. Google Images.

Jessy J’s My One And Only One, her latest album released this past year, performed well on the charts and rankings. The album ranked No. 11 on Billboard’s “Jazz Albums” chart the week of June 13. Her popular single “The Tango Boy” ranked No. 7 on Billboard’s “Smooth Jazz Songs” chart the week of Sept. 19. My One And Only One, according to Jessy J’s blog, is inspired by the sax player’s relationship with her soon-to-be husband.

Natalie Cole. Google Images.
Natalie Cole. Google Images.

 Nine-time Grammy-award-winning singer Natalie Cole died on the evening of Dec. 30. A number of health-related issues contributed to her untimely death, according to her family. Cole was no stranger to fame, as she was the daughter of the late Nat King Cole, who died in 1965. She won a 1992 Grammy award for Album of the Year for Unforgettable… With Love, which featured duets with virtual recordings of her late father. shut down after its final day of online streaming on Dec. 31. Programming director Rick O’Dell shared with the public that he was shutting down the website due to significantly higher royalty fees coming in 2016. He also getting hired to a full-time position at a terrestrial Chicago station forced him to end the station’s run. Smooth Jazz Chicago was a continuation of a smooth jazz community as well as a longtime radio format that aired nearly 30 years. Read more on this story here. Its shutdown is just one among many other smooth jazz stations also shutting or switching formats in recent years.

Sax players Boney James and Mindi Abair appeared on late night television. James and Abair played as guest musicians with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC. James’ guest appearance aired Aug. 10, while Abair appeared on Nov. 26.

The jazz genre overall continues to be one of the least popular genres in the U.S., according to Nielsen’s 2014 year-end report that was released in January of 2015. The volume of streaming suggests that most people prefer genres like pop, rock and country over the often low-tempo, mellow-sounding jazz.


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