March 21, 1997
by Roberta Penn
Acid jazz, the crossroads where hip-hip, funk, soul and jazz converge, has been attracting hip hop followers and young jazz crowds for nearly a decade. But the mainstrearm jazz community has largely ignored the phenomena, perhaps hoping that it would go away. But with well-respected artists like Branford Marsalis taking part in projects and the music drawing a new and vital audience to mainstream jazz, acid jazz can no longer be looked upon as a foster child that will soon move on. Record labels have gotten on the bandwagon by either signing acid jazz groups like US3 or re-issuing the 70s soul jazz that hip hop artists are sampling. Blue Note's Rare Groove series features the music of Byrd, Stanley Turrentine and others, Verve has a new series called Talkin' Verve: Roots of Acid Jazz, and Prestige is re- packaging the recordings of Jack McDuff, Bernard Purdie and Charles Earland under Legends of Acid Jazz. Now Down Beat magazine is giving the music some respect. The jazz magazine's April cover story is on acid jazz.
Though the definition of this new genre is mutable, shifting like the visions created by the psychedelic drug it was named after, acid jazz can generally be defined as groove-laden, funky music with vibrant instrumentalists and a soulful swing. It is this inclusiveness that is the beauty of the music, for whether your first love is hip hop, funk, soulful vocals or instrumental jazz, there is something for just about every taste. For jazz itself the new music is like a shot of B-12. Not since the '60s has instrumental music been so close to being a truly popular style.
A perfect example of the new jazz is Galactic, a group of New Orleans players that recently released its debut CD, 'Coolin' Off.' The set of mostly instrumentals takes off from the famously funky New Orleans' instrumental group The Meters, gets as soulfully sophisticated as '70s Stevie Wonder and features soloists that hold your interest without loosing the groove. The keyboardist Rich Vogel burns up every note.
A five-piece version of Galactic with featured vocalist Theryl deClouet performs at 9:30 Thursday at the Backstage. Also on the bill is Pluto. Admission is $6.
Check out Galactic's website at http://www.fogworld.com/galactic for more info on the band and their nonstop tour schedule. You can also listen to their entire album online, in stereo and for free!
Article copyright © 1997 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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