Acid Jazz – The Brand New Heavies
The Brand New Heavies

A funky stew of jazz, hip-hop and good-time vibes…

What is it?

Few music subgenres have ever burned as brightly and possessed such a thoroughgoing joie de vivre as acid jazz. A heady, percussion-fuelled brew of jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop, this oh-so-early-90s movement was the baby of Eddie Piller and Gilles Peterson who fathered the Acid Jazz record label in 1987, with their first release being Frederick Lies Still by Galliano, a club-targeted reworking of Curtis Mayfield’s soul funk classic Freddie’s Dead.

It was Peterson who landed upon the name Acid Jazz (though it was DJ Chris Bangs who’d coined it), a phrase that fused the genre’s jazz foundations with the then current acid house craze. The label had its origins in two club nights, overseen by Piller and Peterson – Mondays at The Wag in Soho and Sundays at Camden’s Dingwalls.

The faces that came to define acid jazz – The Brand New Heavies, The James Taylor Quartet, Jamiroquai et al – were all part of that achingly hip scene, swiftly signing to this most zeitgeisty of labels.

Peterson would eventually quit Acid Jazz to set up his own label, Talkin’ Loud, taking Galliano with him and signing such acts as Incognito, Young Disciples, Wild & Peaceful and Ace Of Clubs.

Acid jazz would become one of the dominant sounds of the UK charts in the early 90s, but its time in the sun would be short-lived. Electronic dance music from the likes of Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers saw acid jazz off in clubland and, while individual artists like Jamiroquai would continue to flourish, most of those first wavers would either split or find themselves struggling to match their earliest commercial peaks.

Acid Jazz – the essential singles

The Brand New Heavies – Midnight At The Oasis

Incognito – Everyday

D’Influence – Midnite

Freak Power – Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out

Diana Brown & Barry K Sharpe – The Masterplan

Acid Jazz – the essential albums

Young Disciples
Road To Freedom (1991)

An early signing to Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label, Young Disciples would release just one album in their all-too-brief lifetime. They remain best known for their No.13 hit Apparently Nothin’ from 1991, but there’s much to love on their sole long-player, including the flute-flecked Get Yourself Together and epic Mick Talbot co-penned Freedom Suite.

United Future Organization
United Future Organization (1993)

United Future Organization were formed in Japan in 1990 and released this, their second album, in 1993. Warm and mellow, with traces of trip-hop, this deserved to break bigger than it did. Standout tracks include Poetry And All That Jazz, Vinyl Junkie and My Foolish Dream.

Emergency On Planet Earth (1993)

‘The cat in the hat’, as Jay Kay fancily nicknamed himself, was a relative latecomer to the acid jazz ball, releasing his first album as Jamiroquai in 1993. Thirty years on, its funk-tastic grooves still have the power to compel even the shyest onto the dancefloor. Of course it’s heavily in debt to Stevie Wonder but the reality was, even he wasn’t producing anything this good in the mid-90s.

Acid Jazz – the essential artists


Like their fellow retro-instrumentalists The James Taylor Quartet, Corduroy brought the sounds of Swinging London into the 90s with a string of Blow-Up-inspired tracks that had the spirit of Carnaby Street coursing through their chords. Formed in 1991 by twins Ben and Scott Addison with guitarist Simon Nelson-Smith and former Doctor And The Medics bass man Richard Searle, the self-dubbed “fabric four” released their first long-player, Dad Man Cat, in 1992. Neither that album, nor its various follow-ups, charted highly and Corduroy remained on popular culture’s culty fringes. They released their latest LP, Return Of The Fabric Four, in 2018 on, yes, Acid Jazz Records.


Unlike many of their Acid Jazz Records labelmates, Incognito had been going long before Piller and Peterson’s brainwave. Formed in 1979, the band released their first album, Jazz Funk, in 1981, but didn’t put out another LP until 1991’s Inside Life, from which they enjoyed their first chart hit, a cover of Ronnie Laws’ 1975 track Always There. Featuring a guest vocal by US R&B singer Jocelyn Brown, it peaked at No.6 in the UK. A year later Incognito scored their second Top 20 hit, this time with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing, featuring vocals from American jazzster Maysa Leak. They’ve continued to record and tour in the years since, though, with an ever-revolving lineup – the amount of past members give The Fall a run for their money – releasing their most recent record, Tomorrow’s New Dream, in 2019 through Bluey Music.

The Brand New Heavies

If a Mount Rushmore for acid jazz is ever constructed (c’mon, Sunak!), Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy should get first dibs to take the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson spots. The pair formed The Brand New Heavies in 1985 and released their self-titled debut (on Acid Jazz Records, natch) in 1990. Most of those early hits, including Don’t Let It Go to Your Head, Dream Come True and Never Stop, were waxed with N’Dea Davenport as singer, who, despite leaving in 1995, has returned to the fold several times since. The band are still together, having released their last album, TBNH, in 2019.