Having seen a variety of jazz suggestions, I have an urge to address a matter most of the member body here would rather avoid.
There are roughly two limits of a broader jazz definition, one shared with pop and the other one with classical "contemporary" compositions, and oftentimes musicians enter from the pop side and trying to go through it towards the other side.
In the course of this journey, they tend to be more excited with newer musical devices, explore more towards the second Vienna school devices and so on and so forth.
I was one of them, entered from the pop side, and went through at the certain point of the contemporary devices. And I have noticed at some point that jazz (as we discuss here) traces mostly the wake of classical music. There are functional harmony, symmetric concepts, polytonals, impressionism, avangarde and so on and so forth, except that, few classical attempts have been made to improvise on that music whereas musicians tend to think jazz is about improvising, which is roughly correct.
So therefore, the classical criteria must be roughly applied to jazz: None would say Beethoven had been inferior to Bartok.
However, I have seen that, this is not the case in jazz oftentimes: when you play later Wes Montgomery style (i.e. the advent of Smooth Jazz so it's been said) while the other one plays Wayne Shoter (the jazz impressionism), the musicians almost always agree the other one is more "challenging", and even there may be a larger group of people saying Wes style is more "boring" than Wayne ones. I can tell, this is the myth that lets us get lost in jazz quite so often.
I was falsely taken in by the claim of this group of people. Having conceptually lerned and mastered to some extent thereafter, however, they are simply two different kinds of styles. Jazz appreciates what's new, while Wayne Shorter is as new as Wes Montgomery.
It can be said that, Jazz is not about which one is newer or older than the other, but about how to introduce new things to the old to avoid boredom among players and their audience.
Meanwhile, there have been so many Jazz musicians trying and experimenting different things already, it is increasingly difficult to introduce something new.
So while I could explore something new investing all of my time available, I would rather explore what and how I want to play within the existing jazz/pop/folkloric formats, so that I could have a little musical say (something to play) about any of the subjects (i.e. different styles or formats of jazz music).
This is relevant to some of the suggestions here as we would most likely see someone saying Earl Klugh is a Smooth Jazz artist playing for money and therefore is not worthy of listening or trying to learn, or at least they might claim Mick Goodrick being more of a jazz musician than Earl.
This is also related to the "Pat Metheny on Smooth Jazz" video, which the viewers broadly do not know the context. Pat specifically enraged against and blamed one single action of Kenny G: He released an album where Louis Armstrong's voice was superimposed.
https://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/16/arts ... ously.html
There was not only Pat Metheny but also were many other reputable Jazz performers being enraged against this Kenny G blasphemy (I dare say that) for commercial purposes.
So and so, it was not the entire "Smooth Jazz" community which was harshly criticized by Pat, but one single person who did the wrong and who happened to have been a representative figure of the music category for a while.
In fact there are many great musicians among Smooth Jazz artists, such as late Chuck Loeb (taught by Pat Metheny), Lee Ritenour, George Benson, and of course Earl Klugh. The list would be too long if I was going to name non guitarists among them.
Also noteworthy is: as I mentioned, it is said that Smooth Jazz can be traced back to the later Wes Montgomery works, and Pat Metheny said in some interviews that he was transcribing exclusively two Wes Montgomery records when he was 16 as far as I can recall. To back this up, some of Pat Metheny's phrasing is very similar to Wes' phrasing on his particular recordings.
All in all, IMPO you do not have to create anything new to be a jazz guitarist, but you have to be true to yourself, knowing what to say (play) in various formats of the music, or, you should know how you would like to use the given musical devices on the different styles of jazz/pop music, including Smooth Jazz.
It's rather long but I hope you read it through. Sorry should there be any typo or other linguistic error in this.