A journey into Smooth Acid Jazz


In the liner notes of the album "Bosh!" of the group The Quiet Boys you can read:

"HMMM...This Acid Jazz thing seems to have got a bit out of hand just lately. Dead?, Booming?, Convinient? It depends on who you listen to, but one thing is certain; no one can pin it down. No one has ever given a definitive definition, and that's because you can't. It's never really meant anything, it's just that people always want to attribute a multitude of things on its ethereal shoulders, to define the indefinable. Well, all well and good, but where did it come from?..."

In my essay I try to clear the fog and to show up some typical spearheads of this genre, especially these Smooth Acid Jazz artists.

The Brand New Heavies are counting to the pioneers of the London Acid Jazz scene. The Brand New Heavies are Simon Bartholomew (guitar), Jan Kincaid (drums, keyboards) and  Andrew Levy (bass). Originally formed in 1985 as an instrumental group, N'Dea Davenport (vocals) joined the band in 1987. Davenport split from Brand New Heavies in 1994, and continued to develop her solo album, an effort she had put on the back burner for several years. Her self titled debut appeared in 1998. She was replaced by Siedah Garrett in 1996, most of our readers known by Quincey Jones' master album "Back On The Blocks". Siedah Garrett was the featured singer on the album "Shelter"(1997). But after this album Siedah Garrett left the band in 1998 again and was exchanged by Carleen Anderson. She joined The Young Disciples for their hugely influential self titled album. This group appeared on FFRR, the same label of The Brand New Heavies. In 2001 N'Dea Davenport re-united with the group. What a turntable.

Recommendable for a first survey about the group are these websites:

I didn't find an offical website. But if you want to know, which albums The Brand New Heavies have released, I suggest to visit Amazon.com. They have a huge selection of all their albums including special collections, remixes etc. Listening to some of their albums, one cannot find a clear line. The Brand New Heavies are melting Funk, Disco, Hip-Hop, Acid Jazz, Soul, R'nB and what else is grooving.

Essential for friends of Smooth Acid Jazz are their most known and best-selling albums "Brother Sister" (1994) and "Shelter"(1997).

 With "Brother Sister" The Brand New Heavies buildt a new platform for the Funk by mixing elements of Pop and Acid Jazz into it. A very successful realisation is "Have A good time". A true captivating earwig is "Dream On Dreamer". "Midnight At The Oasis", a great song of David Nichtern, was a chartrunner. Enumerous artists covered this theme like Bob James ("Joined At The Hip"), Hubert Laws, Kim Waters ("Love's Melody"), Steve Oliver ("First View") or Martin Taylor ("Kiss & Tell"). "Mind Trips" is a good Soul II Soul adaption. "Spend Some Time" is a groovy dancefloor hit. You also find at this album some reggae like "People Giving Love". All in all many strong tunes lifting the album on a top level.

"Shelter" was a great commercial success for the group. Especially the singles "You Are The Universe" and "Sometimes" were hits in UK and Germany. The album shares the Acid Jazz evolution to smooth out the music. Anew the band mixed Soul, R'nB, Acid Jazz, Urban and more to an irresistible style. If you ask me, which track is my favorite, I couldn't give an answer. Singles like "Sometimes", "Shelter" or "You are The Universe" were great hits and chartbreakers in Europe. The album is very mainstreamed and I absolutely cannot share the opinion of Leo Stanley - AMG ("There are no standout singles on Shelter"). I give the word to a genious anonymous reviewer, who can better describe the album than me:

"... But as the lolloping 'Highest High' breezes on by and the mellow vibe of Steely Dan fills the proceedings, 'Shelter' just demands to be pumped out of an expensive car stereo while cruising down your local high street. Reeeeeally slowly. But where will you actually hear it? Well, if cheesy smoochathons like 'Crying Water' have their way, at The Taboo & Stiletto's Grab A Granny Night. But more than likely, 'Shelter' will be blaring out of a radio near you. Why? Because The Brand New Heavies possess a singer with the tonsils of an angel, a rhythm section who belt out samey-but-eminently-arse-shaking grooves yet - and listen up, 'new grave' fans - make lush, fruggable music that is 110 per cent perfect for the oncoming summer months. Comfortable, lightweight, airy and luxurious... Why wear Corduroy when you can wear silk?"



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