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Sidener cites the saxophonist Sonny Rollins, famous for his ability to venture miles away from a basic melody during a solo. Smooth jazz artists, Sidener notes, restrict their improvisational flights to "eight bars here and eight bars there."

"The pop genre is pentatonic," Sidener explains, "with a five-note scale, or blues scale, and a sax player just plays vanilla stuff up and down, over and over, running it real fast, with a squally kind of sound. And people like it."

The Fort Lauderdale saxophonist Sha Shaty, perhaps the most successful smooth-jazz artist in the area today, feels little need to defend himself against the criticism of jazz purists. "Smooth jazz is the music for the stressed-out, upper-middle-class, 30- to 40-year-old audience," he says frankly. "They don't want to be put to sleep, but they don't want music to add to the stress in their lives."

The slight, dark-haired 27-year-old, born Joe Shashaty, is a native Miamian but has been performing for six years on the Fort Lauderdale scene. He regularly appears at O'Hara's Pub and Jazz Cafe, where he plays with the virtuoso guitarist Marc Vee. (The duo will perform there on Monday night.)

Sha Shaty began playing saxophone when he was seventeen. "I saw this music flourishing," he recalls, "and it was intriguing, because as a young musician you want to see a place you can possibly fit into."

In 1993 Sha Shaty released an eponymously titled debut that met, for the most part, with positive reviews. The critic for the Miami Herald called it "Kenny G with guts." Sha Shaty later opened for such big-name acts as Al Jarreau, Melissa Manchester, and George Benson. He also recorded commercial music for Burdines and Pleasure Island (the Disney World nightclub where he has also performed).

Last year he released his second CD, Voices in My Head, featuring a smooth-jazz version of Santana's "Samba Pa Ti." Though added to the album as an afterthought, "Samba Pa Ti" has become the saxophonist's biggest breakthrough in the NAC market. Love 94, along with four other Florida stations, added the song to their playlists.

"Because of our large fan base, we were able to get the song on Love 94," Sha Shaty says. "The radio station just jumped on it. We've moved from being a South Florida band to being a regional act. It took some time."

The past year started out slowly, Sha Shaty admits, with much downtime and more than one rained-out concert. But with the encouragement of corporate sponsorship (from Absolut Vodka) and the support of Cellar Door Productions (the heavyweight concert promoter), Sha Shaty is preparing to push his music to radio stations across the nation.

His chances of succeeding look good. There are approximately 50 smooth-jazz stations in the U.S., and the number is likely to grow. Nationally, advertising revenues for smooth-jazz stations rose 75 percent over the last three years.

"I think it's really intriguing," Sha Shaty says of the format. "I've been bold enough to compare it to Motown, which was also a brand-new sound coming out of nowhere."

Jim Brickman performs at 8 p.m. on Friday at Bailey Concert Hall, 3501 SW Davie Rd., Davie. Tickets cost $26. Call 954-475-6884 for more information. Sha Shaty and Marc Vee perform at 9 p.m. on Monday at O'Hara's Pub and Jazz Cafe, 722 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-1764 for more information.

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Rafer Guzman

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