Music has been used for eons to set a mood. We all know this; so I won’t bore you gentlemen with a dissertation on that subject matter.

However, for just as long, it has also been used to help enhance or set a particular style. Filmmakers (think the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction) and fashion designers (runway shows, anyone?) have utilized music to enhance their unique style.

Most of the time that involves pop, rock, or electronica. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But one of the more underrated genres of music that gives off a unique vibe and style today is jazz. Or more specifically smooth jazz.

The legends of the genre like Coltrane, Gillespie, Miles, etc., never go out of style. But that’s a historical column for another day. Today’s jazz requires just as much skill and improvisation, but with far less notoriety.

And after all the years of writing this column I still have a “no blowing smoke up your Snoopy” policy. I get it. When the likes of Kenny G. and John Tesh show up in the smooth jazz feed, it gives off a decidedly not cool perception. But the genre isn’t all what some would describe as “elevator music.”

Allow this to be your beginner primer for today’s jazz artists that will add a serious cool factor to your style.

Dave Koz: This cat has been around seemingly forever. A sax player that has collaborated with everyone from the late, great Wayman Tisdale to Pat Sajak (he fronted the house band on Sajak’s ill-fated talk show). He has a restaurant and jazz lounge in Los Angeles, hosts a weekly syndicated jazz show (The Dave Koz Radio Show), and regularly puts together cruises under his Dav Koz & Friends Cruises moniker. Just in case all the above wasn’t enough, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can’t go wrong starting your jazz odyssey with Koz’s most well-known tune, “Castle of Dreams”.

Chris Botti: Botti is a relative newcomer by comparison to most on this primer (he hit the scene in 2004). His style of trumpet playing has garnered numerous Grammy nominations and one Grammy award in 2013 for his album, Impressions. Botti’s style combines jazz with just about every other genre from rock to classical. He has worked several times with Sting. And he most recently collaborated on a tune with Dire Straits former front man, Mark Knopfler. While Impressions has been his most critically-acclaimed album to-date, I would recommend beginning with one of his earlier works. The cover of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” with Paula Cole (Yes, that Paula Cole from the early 90s). You can find it on the equally as good When I Fall In Love album, which eventually rose to No. 1 on the jazz charts.

Mindi Abair: Lest you think that smooth jazz is male dominated; think again! Sticking with the sax, Abair’s style tends to be more upbeat than most preconceived notions of smooth jazz. Definitely more so than what Botti does! She is every bit as accomplished as the first two gentlemen listed above. Abair has produced ten No. 1 radio singles, two No. 1 jazz albums, and performed with Aerosmith on American Idol. I personally think her overall best work is 2003’s album, It Just Happens That Way. But if you’re new to smooth jazz, I would suggest you start with her newest work with her band The Boneshakers. “Gone”, off of their Live in Seattle album, is the one to try.

Earl Klugh: I promise you gentlemen that smooth jazz is not all horns. And to prove it, go check out this cat. Klugh is a guitarist of the highest caliber. Notice I didn’t say jazz guitarist? That’s because he can hold his own with anyone that’s ever fired up a six-string. He also has the distinction of being around longer that the aforementioned Dave Koz, as Klugh first hit the scene in 1976. Obviously, with a catalogue that abundant you have plenty to choose from, but I would say start with his guitar cover of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. You won’t be disappointed.

Maysa: As with all genres of music, you have certain artists that get away with just one name. Smooth jazz is no different. Compared to the others on this primer, Maysa is fairly new to the smooth jazz scene; having only burst onto the stage in 1995. Maysa (whose last name is Leak, in case you were wondering or needed to Google her) doesn’t play an instrument – like the others on here. She’s strictly a jazz vocalist. And truth be told, her voice is really all she needs. A strong influence of R&B plays into her style of jazz. If you want an introduction to that voice, you should start with her extremely well-done cover of Pat Benatar’s (an ORC – Original Rockin’ Chica), “Love Is A Battlefield” off the brand new album of the same name (covers of her favorite tunes).

Alright gentlemen. Don’t be shy – or worried about what others will think – and give an underrated modern music genre a try. Start or improve your personal style today.

Until next time, gentlemen.