Residing at the crossroads of soulful jazz and glamorous disco is the party sound of acid jazz. What was antique would become new once again when a select group of old, overlooked records began receiving unofficial airplay in London. A number of musicians, open to influence, chanced upon the old sound and championed their own musical concoction heavily shaped by it.
Next thing you know, Jamiroquai, The Brand New Heavies, and more squeezed through the crowded hubbub of the music industry – gaining way for a much more experimental sound and style. London was on to something.
All That Jazz
Rare groove was all about dusty funk and groove records only an obsessive DJ with encyclopedic knowledge of music would dare to unearth and play.
Before acid jazz could come into being, its parent movement had to be made. This movement was ‘Rare Groove’, and a single man brought it to mainstream prominence.
Norman Jay, a Notting Hill native turned underground DJ set about broadcasting his own pirate radio station by the name of “Kiss FM” in ’85. Little did he know that he’d head an important movement in obscure groove track recognition – a ‘groovement’ if you will.
Rare groove was all about dusty funk and groove records only an obsessive DJ with encyclopedic knowledge of music would dare to unearth and play. And as fate would have it, Norman was the man for the job.
Kiss FM, famous for airing such obscure, commercially unsuccessful music, became a stupendous success. Fast-forward to present day and it’s become a major UK radio station backed by big business. Ah, the music industry and its irony…
Rare groove influenced two similar, converging groups of music producers – toppling like dominoes into new sounds and, ultimately, a brand new subgenre. DJs were slapping beats up against old, uncommon jazz tunes, while live bands indulged in the same groove and funk right up to the tipping point of adopting it into their own music.
All this phenomenon needed was a name…
Acid Jazz Records
Acid Jazz was born into the world with the official launch of London’s “Acid Jazz Records” in 1987.
Two founders, Gilles Peterson and Eddie Piller, came together with the idea and put it all into action. Wasting no time – they signed ultra-funky act Galliano, headed by Rob Gallagher.
A prime example of their sound is their track “Golden Flower” – spoken word, relentless rhythm, near-dissonant harmonies, and ‘truth-bomb’ enlightened lyrics make it as much a joy to listen to as it is quintessential acid jazz.
The Heavies had a distinct, disco-imbued dance sound that garnered big success and critical acclaim…
Gilles had had enough of the scene by ’89 and took his leave (launching his own label Talkin’ Loud), but AJR kept going strong in his absence. In fact, the label’s subsequent signings included their most successful bands and the first mainstream success of the subgenre by way of The Brand New Heavies’ eponymous album release.
The Heavies had a distinct, disco-imbued dance sound that garnered big success and critical acclaim in the UK and overseas, though they really took off after signing a new deal with Chrysalis Records and adding a new lead singer to the mix.
Mother Earth joined up with AJR for the duration of their existence, releasing guitar-driven acid jazz tunes from 1991 to 1996. Initially, they were a studio outfit, but they worked up to live venues after a couple albums.
…with a solid lineup of appealing acts, a unique sound and a catchy name, acid jazz took shape.
Jamiroquai signed up next for the launch of their own debut single “When You Gonna Learn” in 1992. In 1996, they’d go on to break a Guinness World Record for funk album sales with their own release Travelling Without Moving. You can thank “Virtual Insanity” for that.
And so it was, with a solid lineup of appealing acts, a unique sound and a catchy name, acid jazz took shape. It wasn’t long before it all began popping up on mainstream radars (and radios).
…they’d go on to break a Guinness World Record for funk album sales with their own release Travelling Without Moving. You can thank “Virtual Insanity” for that.
Jazz on New Drugs
Acid jazz succeeded in crossing the pond with major acts charting high in the U.S. It even caught on in Asia, especially in Japan, where bands like Mondo Grosso and Gota got their start. Still, its early existence is entirely traceable to the dance-halls and discotheques of ’80s London.
Over pirate airwaves, the ashes of old, abandoned jazz projects birthed what would arguably become the most significant jazz development in the UK. A development that fused the old with the new surprisingly well and captured the attention of a young, dancing crowd without sacrificing complexity or depth.
Caught in-between the two musical forces of dance and jazz, acid jazz scratched out its own foothold and holds its own to this date.