Various Artists

Acid Jazz: The 25th Anniversary Box Set

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This four-CD, one-DVD box set anthologizes the London-based Acid Jazz label -- founded by Eddie Piller and Gilles Peterson -- and the same-named scene that birthed it. The term was jokingly coined in 1987 by DJ/producer Chris Bangs as a way to contend with the emergence of acid house. Unlikely as it was, acid jazz stuck and denominated a club scene that devoured rare soul, jazz, and funk (and hybrids thereof), as well as the then-current music that drew from and sampled it. The scene produced groups that put their own -- if sometimes reverential to a fault -- spin on it, and the label eventually extended its reach across continents by releasing music from the likes of the Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai. Disc one reflects the foundation -- the cult favorites and classics spun by the club and warehouse party DJs, ranging chronologically and stylistically from bop (Mark Murphy's 1961 version of Miles Davis' "Milestones") to post-disco funk (Dinosaur L's "Go Bang! #5," released in 1982, mixed by François K). Discs two and three switch between proper Acid Jazz releases and selections championed by the scene. The above-mentioned groups are represented with key cuts, and so are James Taylor Quartet (in contemporary and full-on throwback modes), the Isley Brothers-referencing Night Trains, the seemingly kitschy but storming Snowboy, and tranquil rockers Mother Earth. Among the highlights not issued on the label: Gang Starr's "Jazz Thing" (a history lesson and fresh DJ Premier production at once), Soho's "Hot Music" (a sample cut-up classic), and Young Disciples' "Get Yourself Together" (contemporary soul released on Talkin' Loud, another Peterson venture). Incognito, a U.K. jazz-funk group established half a decade prior to the scene, are acknowledged with the inclusion of their Jocelyn Brown-led version of Ronnie Laws' "Always There." Disc four is devoted to stoned grooves from the likes of Paul Weller, Cypress Hill, and Jhelisa. The box itself is sturdy and contains a booklet of track information and excellent liner notes (from the label's Dean Rudland), as well as a 50-page hardcover book that showcases the label's artwork, and a Brand New Heavies 7" single. Done with the high level of care expected from the Harmless label, it should be a delight for anyone familiar or new to acid jazz and Acid Jazz.

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick