Various origins have been attributed to the name of the genre, including claims to have coined the term by DJs Gilles Peterson and Chris Bangs. The name is a play on the acid house genre, which was flourishing in the UK club scene in the 1980s.
Gilles Peterson, often credited with originating the genre, pictured in 2004
Acid jazz consisted of two related movements. The first was based around records released by DJs and producers that included rare jazz tracks, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s, often mixing them with percussion tracks and electronic dance beats. The second were groups influenced by these recordings and who emphasised a groove-based approach to music. Acid jazz uses elements of jazz, funk and hip-hop. Because of its existence as a percussion-heavy, primarily live music, it was closer to jazz than any other dance style, but its focus on maintaining a groove allied it with funk, hip-hop, and dance music. The style is characterised by danceable grooves, and long, repetitive compositions. Typical ensembles include horns, a full rhythm section (often with a drum set and additional percussion), a vocalist that may sing and rap and often a DJ.
Acid jazz originated in the London club scene of the mid-1980s, with DJs of the rare groove movement, who played obscure jazz records. Their main interests were in the fringe of jazz fusion, jazz funk and with lesser input from soul jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. Particularly significant were records from the Blue Note catalogue.
In the early 1990s local acid jazz scenes developed in the US. It reached New York in 1990 when British promoter Maurice Bernstein, and his South African partner, Jonathan Rudnick opened Groove Academy as a party at the Giant Step club in the basement of the Metropolis Café in Union Square. From this Groove Academy developed into a record label and media company. Other acid jazz recording artists in New York were Brooklyn Funk Essentials (Doublemoon), DJ Smash (Eightball Records), and Jerome Van Rossum (Irma Records). In San Francisco there was Ubiquity Records and in Los Angeles Solsonics.
Acid jazz soon gained an international following, including in Japan, Germany, Brazil and Eastern Europe. From Japan, United Future Organization gained an international reputation, signing an American record deal in 1994. Other notable artists from Japan included Mondo Grosso, and Gota. From Eastern Europe came bands such as Skalpel from Poland.
The rise of electronic club music in the mid to late 1990s led to a decline in interest in acid jazz among the record buying public, although the genre continued to have a reduced worldwide following. In the twenty-first century the movement became so intertwined with other forms that it became indistinct as a genre and many acts that might have been defined as acid jazz are now seen as jazz funk, neo soul or jazz rap.
Q magazine stated "Acid jazz was the most significant jazz form to emerge out of the British music scene". One major legacy of the genre was on the jam band movement, with acid jazz proving a suitable medium for extended improvisation for acts such as Medeski, Martin and Wood.
^J. Ankeny, "United Future Organization", in V. Bogdanov, ed., All Music Guide to Electronica: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music (Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, 2001), ISBN 0-87930-628-9, p. 536.