History of Acid Jazz Ė Cool Chillouts


Acid jazz?  I love acid jazz or at least I think I do because thereís no undisputed definition of it.  We all know what we mean Ė Incognito, Brand New Heavies, James Taylor Quartet, live drums, horns, rambunctious bass lines, a latin touch, 60ís organ sounds and funk.  Fearsomely trendy and yet respectful of tradition.  Hans-Bernd Huelsmann, owner of this site, has gone to great lengths to chase that elusive definition in his essay A Journey Into Smooth Acid Jazz. 

Smooth acid jazz?  OK, I love smooth jazz (youíll already have worked that one outÖ) and I just waved my acid jazz flag so I was excited to get this gorgeous 2-CD set in my mail. 

Let me talk about the package for a second because if youíre buying it, youíre in for a treat on several levels.  The image here does not represent what you get, by the wayÖ  This is a proper double CD box in a glossy and textured slipcase.  Itís got subtle artwork and gold lettering.  Acid jazz comes of age.  The booklet is just as classy with its walnut wood print and sparse layout.  Even the discs are gold lacquered on both the label and playing sides.  Very sexy. 

Wow, whatís the music going to sound like?  There are 32 tracks to hear so Iíll concentrate on a sample.  Pour a nice drinkÖ 

The Beaujolais Bandís mellow latin take on the classic Ainít No Sunshine has a lovely feel with gentle piano, vibes, percussion and a lovely rolling bassline.  In contrast, Spinning Wheel as performed by the New Jersey Kings has sassy James Brown-style brass and once that Hammond B3 organ starts to burn, this becomes truly frantic and I canít help laughing. 

Vibraphonicís Heavy Vibes is, if anything, even more satisfying than the heavenly Vince Montana original from the mid-80ís.  It has great Incognito-style crisp drums, punchy bass and sparse vocal.  With its muted trumpet itís just the bomb!!  Itís my definition of acid jazz and I could listen to it all night.  On Come Together, the Apostles serve up a more urban beat with a trademark snapping snare sound.  The rap is tight and that rhythm guitar work is neat, neat, neat. 

Rap is also featured on Orient Boysí Sim Ting and this is an irresistible dancer with a tough beat, 70ís strings and brass samples to die for.  Iíve heard the horn riffs before but I canít remember where.  Mother Earth lay down a jazzy groove - and an uplifting one - on Look to the Light.  That organ is interspersed with the spoken text of Max Ehrmannís ďDesiderataĒ.  Itís all a bit Woodstock Ė hey, Iím hip to that! 

Soul Stationís Congalegre is a flashback to the 60ís with its snazzy horns, lazy vibraphone and handclaps.  The chord changes and immaculate live feel on this track are like breath to me Ė sublime.  A guitar sound very reminiscent of Larry Carlton openís Mother Earthís Have a Time.  This has a mellow samba beat before it explodes into a crazy Santana-style guitar jam where the organ, bass and the drums just go for it. 

Time and Spaceís Time and Space Theme is jazz disco with catchy hooks and a high-hat that defies you to stand still.  Check out the neat sax, flute and guitar solos too.  Itís old-fashioned but timeless Ė itís upbeat and infectious and, hey, put the drink down and come and dance!  A big slice of lazy, bass-led funk like Brand New Heavies on Mac Pacís Sweet Feelings.  There is a genuine vocal and this is a real soul record.  Itís warm and California sunny. 

Cloud Nineís Peace and Love is a nice cool vibe.  Itís blessed out with another soul vocal and the mellowest of backbeats.  The mood gets heavier on Jessica Laurenís Couldnít Take the Missing You.  Ooh, this is beautiful and intense.  A slow, heavy bass and space-y keyboards set the scene for this smouldering gem.  Soulful and very sexy. 

Leaders and Believers by Emperorís New Clothes is hypnotic and has a haunting Eastern feel.  The sax is very sparse but itís enough when laid over the lazy drums and warm acoustic bass riff.  Youíd expect a classy number from the James Taylor Quartet Ė and you wonít be disappointed.  Keep On Moving is a percussion-driven jazz tune with sweet chant vocals and a bubbling bass.  The understated horn stabs are the finishing touch to this standout track.  For me, like Heavy Vibes, this typifies the best of light, tight, funky, smile-making acid jazz. 

Thereís something for everyone here: touches of latin, funk, disco, real jazz, rap and there are some tracks where the hip-hop and reggae grooves get deep (though these arenít among the tracks listed).  Some of the music is cool and some is ďout thereĒ.  Some of the tracks had me wondering ďshould this be on here?Ē but thatís part of the richness and diversity of acid jazz. 


Recording Arts Records (Dejavu Retro Gold Collection) Ė cat no. R2CD 40-102 Ė Various producers