Stemming from pervasive classical jazz elements, ’70s funk beats, rock ‘n’ roll, African and Latin music, acid jazz is the name of a genre that denies any affiliation with one specific genre.
After listening to a hundred different songs from musicians labeled as acid jazz, you would still ask yourself at the end of the experience, “Uh, what was that?”
Acid jazz is a style of music that isn’t quite in the mainstream, because even if you heard it, you wouldn’t be able to classify it. That is probably why the names of acid jazz bands are not on the lips of the public for any extended length of time. People like to have a grasp on things, and acid jazz is about as slippery as music can be. It doesn’t have to cater to any particular image or set structure, but occasionally, it does. People who listen to it don’t have to dress a certain way, but if they do, who cares? It’s about the music.
Any time you hear a song and can’t be sure of whatever you’re listening to, take one thing into consideration: Is it funky? If the answer is “Yes,” or even an upward leaning “Maybe,” then what you are listening to is acid jazz. The common theme in this music that continues to perpetuate its label is the strong link it shares to its jazz forefathers: the funk. It is more apparent in some musicians, such as St. Germain.
I first heard St. Germain’s music by accident. It is definitely an acquired taste. The first song I heard, called “So Flute,” has since become one of my favorite acid jazz tracks. Your initial impression would probably be similar to mine: Take Miles Davis, a classic rock band and a techno DJ, and throw them into a trash bag together; proceed to bang the trash bag against a wall for an hour, and you’ll have a sound similar to the music of St. Germain. His songs tend to contain little to no lyrics and carry along a continuous melodic theme. Most people shy away from this in the same manner they shy away from traditional jazz music free-styling.
This does not necessarily reflect the norm. The Brand New Heavies, a band based out of the UK, utilize a strong sense of lyrical ability in tandem with a variety of instrumental accompaniment. One of their older songs and biggest hits, “Brother, Sister,” is a clear example of extended musical range.
The easiest way to get involved in the acid jazz scene is to avoid listening to mainstream music for a little while. Turn off the radio, and turn on the Internet. When you hear it, you’ll know it. There will be a pleased but confused look plastered on your face.