The 1980s saw a great jazz revival. In the United States a new generation gave it a focus that was reflected in acres of press coverage illustrated with lots of black and white photographs. Wynton Marsalis is probably the best know practitioner. The UK revival focused on young musicians such as Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson, players of exceptional skill who could hold their own against any of the young turks from the US. The UK revival appeared superficially to be based on trying to recreate the records of Art Blakey and the hard bop greats, but it was always something more. Many of the artists had a unique sense of their Afro-Caribbean heritage and also referenced Britain’s multi-cultural club scene which had always accepted jazz as a part of the overall sound of black music.
One of the outgrowths of that club scene was Acid Jazz, which exploded on the scene as an anitidote to house music’s increasing domination of dancefloors in late 1987. It mixed jazz in all its forms with funk, soul and elements of more modern dance music. It welcomed a coterie of London-based musicians and it was almost inevitable that a new label would appear that understood the form: Acid Jazz Records was born in mid-1988. The label took all the elements from the clubs and became one of the most successful UK independents of the early 90s, scoring hits with the James Taylor Quartet and the Brand New Heavies and it discovered Jamiroquai. All these were steeped in jazz and joined others who were more strictly jazz, such as Ed Jones or Snowboy, but also those such as the Emperors New Clothes who were looser, but had adopted a jazz spirit.
This CD looks at the jazz side of the label over the past 21 years, opening with their brand new signing the Filthy Six and their Donald Byrd-sounding track ‘This’, demonstrating that Acid Jazz is still finding exciting jazz outfits. Then we present a potted history of the label’s stroll through the world of jazz. From the James Taylor Quartet and their sister group the New Jersey King’s love of the Mizell Brothers, through the Brand New Heavies and Max Beesley’s jazz funk grooves is some of the best UK jazz funk. Ed Jones showed very early in his career why he has become one of the UK’s most respected saxophonists, while Snowboy and the Latin Section show why they were possibly the best-selling UK jazz outfit of the 90s. In between these cuts there are plenty of other slices of pure jazz joy, to complete in fine style our three series retrospective of Acid Jazz’s 21 years.
By Dean Rudland