Acid Jazz was founded in 1987 by Eddie Piller and Giles Peterson, making reference to the acid house movement with the label's name. One of the true independents among labels at that time, its early remit was concerned with providing a platform for alternative club tunes amidst the explosion of dance orientated music that was sweeping the UK. Giles Peterson would leave the outfit in 1989 to set up his own label leaving Eddie Piller to set up shop in EMI's vacated offices in Denmark Street. As the name suggests, the label became the champion of new club jazz music, but forms of funk, reggae and soul also found a home with Acid Jazz.
In 1994 Acid Jazz opened their own club, The Blue Note, in London's then run down district of Hoxton. The club provided a venue for their own night 'Magic Bus' alongside other now legendary nights such as the Metalheads drum and bass night that helped spawn a subculture all of its own.
One step ahead of the mainstream, the label famously released Jamiroquai's first single in 1992 before Jay Kay and his band signed their huge deal with Sony and became a household name for the rest of the decade. Looking beyond their launch of the Space Cowboy we take a brief look at some of the label's best moments.
Galliano - ‘Frederic Lies Still’
The label's first signing and first release, Galliano's reworking of a Curtis Mayfield song contains many of the signature ingredients of the Acid Jazz sound. Trumpets, flutes and wah guitar blend and juxtapose over funky drum beats and bass lines providing the mod friendly jazz sound that had been missing from both the mainstream and underground. Contributors to Galliano's albums included Mick Talbot of The Style Council among other notable musicians.
Brand New Heavies - 'Dream Come True'
Another big name in the Acid Jazz history, The Brand New Heavies found success on both sides of the Atlantic when they re-recorded their early songs with new vocalist N'Dea Davenport who would remain with them for most of their 1990s recordings. Songs such as 'Dream Come True' found their niche both in the clubs and crucially on MTV, at a time when the pop video was king.
King Truman - ‘Like A Gun’
With Mick Talbot already lending a hand on Galliano's albums, it was perhaps only a matter of time before he and his fellow Style Council member would get involved with the soulful independent. King Truman was Paul Weller and Mick Talbot recording under a pseudonym in 1989 to evade the legal gaze of Polydor. Sadly the major caught wind of what was going on and the single was pulled before release, leaving this 12 inch the most sought after Acid Jazz record of all time.
Mother Earth - 'Jessie'
Another project that was touched by the hand of Mod, Mother Earth began as a studio based side project with contributors including Paul Weller and James Taylor before the line up settled with Shauna Green on vocals.
Corduroy - ‘Motörhead’
As is often the case with jazz, some musicians in the acid jazz genre were sometimes teased for arguably taking themselves a little too seriously. Corduroy, however, were more than willing to have a bit of fun with their music, whether it was making soundtracks to 1960s films that never existed or covering Motörhead's eponymous rocker in club jazz style.
Goldbug - ‘Whole Lotta Love’
It seems crazy 20 years on, that Acid Jazz's biggest chart hit to date is Goldbug's one hit wonder mash up of Led Zep x Pearl & Dean, released in 1996 amidst the Britpop and house music frenzy. The song became the default soundtrack of the year following the exposure it was given by Radio 1 DJ Chris Evans. Sadly a complicated dispute over royalties called time on celebrations for both artist and label.
Acid Jazz Rare Mod
By the late '90s The Blue Note club had closed and the musical landscape was changing. Acid Jazz adapted by diversifying its roster and looking to the mid century roots of jazz and mod. The Rare Mod series of compilations began in 2009 and continues to this day, curated by former Corduroy bassist Richard Searle.
Matt Berry - ‘Witchazel’
One of the best examples of Acid Jazz's diversification was their signing of Matt Berry in 2010. Primarily known as a comedy actor at the time, Matt Berry had already recorded his album 'Witchazel' and released it via his website in 2009. Acid Jazz provided the platform Berry needed to give it a full release and become a fully fledged recording artist with subsequent albums such as 'Kill The Wolf' garnering widespread acclaim. The 'Witchazel' song 'Take My Hand' became widely known after being used as the title music to Channel 4's Toast.
Dexters - ‘Start To Run’
Embracing the indie-mod resurgence of recent years and continuing to expand its repertoire, Acid Jazz put out The Dexter's second single 'Start To Run' in 2014. They became a central band to the 'This Feeling' Britrock crowd but went their own ways by the end of 2015.
New Street Adventure - 'What's So Good About Happiness?'
With their contemporary take on soulful indie, New Street Adventure's signing to Acid Jazz could be interpreted as a sort of homecoming for the label that set out to offer a flip-side to the mainstream. A young and vital band, New Street Adventure show no signs of stopping, with their latest album 'Stubborn Sons' released on Acid Jazz in 2017.
Find out more about Acid Jazz at www.acidjazz.co.uk
Listen to our Eddie Piller playlist here.