Thanks to the evils of the "smooth jazz" radio format that's caught on around here like a dreaded disease, too many folks equate the slicked-up stuff done by the likes of the Antichrist -- a.k.a. Kenny G -- as "jazz." All the while, wonderfully inventive and prolific musicians such as James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Patricia Barber and Joe Lovano are doing their best work, usually to sympathetic audiences in Europe and Japan instead of their native shores.
One consolation to the scant airtime these artists (and dozens of others) get in the Valley is the surprisingly cool selection that populates the "jazz" section at the Tempe store. Warning: The employees there are much more apt to be able to blab about the music of Biggie Smalls than Fats Waller, and about Will Smith rather than Willie "The Lion" Smith, so you'll pretty much be on your own.