Where did the name "acid jazz" come from?

A really old posting. Made by Greg Beuthin.

Acid Jazz really has nothing to do with Acid music (originally)- it was a tongue in cheek spinoff of the Acid House phenomenon happening in the UK at the time. The underground dance club scene (The Fez, The Centre of the World, etc) provided an ambiance for "Massives" of DJ's and musicians to get together and jam, spinning off from the original reggae sounds (and sound systems) of the 70s to other forms of black music (as opposed to non-black music movements like techno and house, which started at almost the same time). Soul II Soul was an early example of this, but they went in a slightly different direction than the acid jazz bands that followed. The most prevalent musical trend was the revival of the 70s American funk, which became very popular in Britain in the late eighties. There were the early (88? 89?) Talkin Loud and Saying Someting parties which were the basis for the first couple of Totally Wired compilations, which was Acid Jazz's (the label) jumping off point. The first Acid Jazz single, Galliano's "Fredrick Lies Still" was an almost tongue in cheek cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead," from the film Superfly. A big supporter/ promoter of acid jazz was Gilles Peterson, who was a dj at KISS FM. He was purportedly one of the founders of the Acid Jazz record label, then went on to start Talkin Loud.

The legends about how the name came about: On one of the BGP Acid Jazz compilations the sleeve notes referred to Gilles Peterson jokingly giving James Taylor a cassette of Funk Inc. and Charlie Earland Grooves labelled simply "Acid Jazz" in order to inspire him.
Gilles Peterson claimed on radio to have coined the phrase acid jazz when he was asked to dj after an acid house dj. He said that the crowd was going mental to this house music and he wasn't sure how he could follow it up. He put on things like Jonny Pate's 'You're starting too fast,' Weldone Irvine and Charles Earland etc., and the crowd kept dancing. But then Gilles probably would say that he invented it.
Then, while the Young Disciples were in California last summer, they claimed that they gigged at this club where they had a massive acid house thing going on downstairs, and a small room upstairs where the YDs were supposed to play "jazz." So Femi (or was it Marc?) called it "Acid Jazz" to attract people upstairs.
It is likely that many of these stories regarding the origin of the term are apocryphal, and it should be noted at the time the so called Acid Jazz thing hit, in the late eighties, alot of DJs who'd been playing this sort of stuff already were pretty pissed off with the tag "Acid Jazz", and the widely held assumption that Gilles Peterson deserved sole credit for the resurrection of this form of music since he'd supposedley coined the term.
Finally, Chris Phillips or Jez Nelson interviewed some New York soul band last year, on a London radio station. The band said they might get into this new acid jazz thing. At the end of the programme, one of the DJs scoffed, saying "Acid Jazz was something Giles Peterson invented five years ago that some other people got involved in. It is over now."
Perhaps the moral of the story is not to invent these tags, it is bad enough with Soul Jazz, Soul Funk, Jazz Funk, Funk/Jazz etc already.
Now, of course, music does not evolve in a vacuum, and there were several things happening in the U.S. Americans usually claim the first mingling of rap and jazz, and could even claim dibs on "acid jazz," because what we know today as "Acid Jazz" is usually reworked American 70's stuff.
Some give credit to Miles Davis' _Doo Bop_ album (1992) for being the first in that category. Also, _On the Corner_ (1972) was a bold leap into funky jazz.
Ganstarr's "Jazz Thing," (for Spike Lee's "Mo' Bettah Blues") did come before Miles' "Doo Bop" unless you are questioning whether it's "real" jazz they are rapping over.
Branford Marsalis played sax on Public Enemy's Fight The Power in 1990.
Ron Carter played bass for A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory in 1991.
In 88, Stetsasonic did two versions of Talkin' All Jazz, first sampling Lonnie Liston Smith, then remixing with a Donald Byrd track. In 86, Run-DMC flipped a Bob James song into the hip hop classic Peter Piper.
(The dates come from record sleeves. They don't always correspond to when the songs were actually created.)
Incidentally, 1988 is also the year that Gang Starr dropped their monster "Words I Manifest" single (sampling Charlie Parker doing a Dizzy Gillespie tune) and subsequent "No More Mr. Nice Guy" album on Wild Pitch. Their LP track "Jazz Music" initiated and predates "Jazz Thing" and even any of Tribe's recorded efforts.
However, crediting Gang Starr with the first Hip Hop Jazz *Album* is slightly unfair on Galliano, whose earlier projects came sometime before. To go much further back, probably the first real rappers, after Max Bygraves, were the Last Poets. Some of their material could be described as Jazz Hip Hop in the loosest sense of the word, which is appropriate considering perhaps the seminal Jazz Hip Hop track - Gangstarr's "Jazz Thing" is simply rapping over a Brandford Marsalis Horn, and the latter simply playing over a loop of Kool and the Gang's "Dujii", and you'd have a hard time convincing any Jazz buff that Kool Jazz was actually jazz.
So that's how it goes. Of course, now people have started sampling jazz with techno music (The House of Acid Jazz is a good example) and people have used samples *and* used real musicians (eg US3).
Once people started recognizing that some of the "jazz" from the 60's and 70's was funky like that, they started to call it acid jazz as well. So now it has encompassed a huge variety of music.
An important thing here is to recognize and acknowledge the contributions from everywhere. The UK was the first to revinvent funk with jazz (in the US, the jazz had slowly been dropped from the funk ala Prince, Parliment, etc). The US was concentrating more on getting musically serious with it's rap forms, but until full length jazz-rap albums like Guru's came out, the emphasis was mainly on single songs or single samples. However, this list is more geared towards the funkified jazz sounds of the original acid-jazz movement than the jazz-rap community, but discussions of the latter are not necessarily out of place. :-)

This "history" and definition is actually a collage of various statements submitted by me and the following people. They do not necessarily have the copyright on the knowledge, but spent their time writing about it. Much respect to:

Robert Smith
Phil Julian
Sever R./Turner
DJ GerryV
Sean Silcoff

Most of you saw my "ad" with a whole bunch of names- that's just an "idea" of what kind of music we are talking about. Acid jazz is just a term to make things easy- lets not confine ourselves with labels. Look at the token "mascot" compilation series of this list: "Rebirth of Cool"- jazz, rap and soul. That's what we are here about. And hey, this doesn't mean the discussion is by any means over. ;-)
A couple of last, intellectually related thoughts from Phil Julian, who spent a lot of time thinking and even more time typing.

From: julian@unx.sas.com (Phil Julian)
Subject: Definition and History of Acid Jazz
I agree about the misuse of tags, which eventually become commercial record hype. On the other hand, there is the danger that musical forms which are not fully defined will disappear without any trace. An article in Option magazine, with various headlines threatening the "Death of Rap", lamented the fact that no real history of rap has been written, and went on to add that all the true innovations were in the past. If the same logic were applied to Acid Jazz, you would have to say it is also dead.
As an example of definitions of music, I offer the posts I made to the funky music group, defining jazz fusion and r&b. I made the posts because discussions eventually centered about music origins and definitions. And to clarify what I am looking for here, I give you these long definitions.
As I suspected, there are several definitions for several types of jazz, and this book has no single definition of jazz. But the category "Jazz-Rock-Fusion" is the closest alphabetical category that is not a biography, and so I present the first 4 paragraphs of that definition (it is too long to copy). Again, from _Jazz, The Essential Companion_ (by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestley; 1987 copyright):
Towards the end of the 1960s the jazz scene in the USA and Europe found itself in a state of deep crisis. The more conventional forms -- 'bebop', 'hard bop', 'modal jazz' etc. -- seemed played out, and audiences were falling off. At the same time, the avant-garde music of the day -- 'free jazz' and 'improvised music' -- seemed unattractive to many musicians, and had not gained a new audience of any significant size. by 1967 rock had established itself as teh current vernacular music, and was attracting huge audiences. Jazz seemed to have lost its social relevance, record sales slumped, clubs closed, people began muttering that jazz was dead and by 1968 even big names were drawing only handfuls of people.
The music itself was undergoing a severe identity crisis: was it related to the great ethnic musics of the world -- African, Indian, oriental and European -- in that it featured incisive rhythms, coherent structures, the disciplines of organized harmonies and/or scales and diatonic melodies which spoke of the human condition? Or was it now related more to the abstract music of the 20th-century classical avante-garde which was too 'serious' to accomodate the sensous pleasure of ostinato rhythms or the comfort of tonality? The choice facing many musicians was an unappetizing one: they could either play in an established style, or throw out all the old rules, join the avant-garde and create abstract music. It became imperative to find a new identity and a fresh approach.
Jazz and rock both came from the same roots: the blues, hot gospels, worksongs and rhythm and blues. Nearly all American jazz musicians had started out with r & b bands, and in the 1960s many younger musicians had grown up with rock and roll, the Beatles and other rock groups. So it was perfectly natural that, throughout the decade, jazz musicians began to use and develop rock rhythms. Miles Davis' young rhythm-section with Tony Williams had played both spontaneous and premeditated rock rhythms in 1964 and 1965, and from the mid-1960s many people, including Gary Burton, Larry Coryell, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Lloyd, Don Ellis and Bob Moses had made extensive and sometimes very subtle use of them.
The whole jazz-rock movement was crystalized and given its full momentum by three Miles Davis albums, _Files de Kilimanjaro_ (1968), _In a Silent Way_ and _Bitches Brew_ (both 1969), which produced an astonishingly fresh sound, combining rocky drum rhythms and bass riffs with sometimes three electric keyboards and guitar, creating and releasing tension in new ways and projecting the mysteriously sensuous and evocative atmosphere of the trumpeter's best music. The ensemble which recorded these albums included among others Herbie Hancock, Chich Corea, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams and Larry Young, all of whom afterwards led their own groups, producing their own particular brand of fusion and dominating the 1970s. Davis's three albums suggested lines of exploration and development which might be followed up in many different ways, and musicians all over the globe began to see a way out of the creative impasse. There was also a growing audience for the new music; with fusion, jazz had rediscovered its social relevance.

I promissed this information, but I had to find the time when it was not work time, and when there was not basketball on the TV (GO Heels!). So, here is the definition of "rhythm-and-blues" from from _Jazz, The Essential Companion_ (by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestley; 1987 copyright):
A term for music adopted by the US record industry in the late 1940s to replace the demeaning descriptions such as 'race records' (1920s) and 'sepia series' (1930s). These names had, of course, covered nearly all of early jazz issues which, it was naturally assumed, were only worth marketing for black listeners.
A lot of what is now thought of as rhythym-and-blues actually predated the term, and was a direct outgrowth of the blues groups and 'jump bands' of the late 1930s. But the rhythmic bounce and the saxophone-dominated instrumentation remained a constant thread at least up to the work of Earl Bostic, Fats Domino and Little Richard, although gradually more and more electric guitar sounds were absorbed (via West Coast blues) in the evolution of r & b into rock and roll. Much of the vocal work of the period was more influenced by gospel than blues, which is one reason why such a thorough-going mix made r & b the basis of all pop music since, in the same way that bebop simultaneously laid the foundation for all later jazz.
More than that, rhythm-and-blues has continued to interact with post-bebop jazz; where folk-blues had provided a touchstone for early jazz, now the relationship was closer. Not only had r & b been influenced by jazz, but most of the important jazz players of the hard-bop and free-jazz generation servered their apprenticeship in r & b bands, even the great saxophone innovators John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.

-- by Brian Priestly