|Stylistic origins||Jazz-funk, acid jazz, jazz fusion, soul jazz, bossa nova, smooth jazz, free improvisation, electro, house, electronica, techno, EDM, electro swing|
|Cultural origins||Mid-1990s USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway, Mexico, and Brazil.|
|Typical instruments||Bass guitar, analog synthesizers, electric piano, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, drums, turntables|
|Electro swing - Illbient - Industrial hip-hop - Trip hop|
Nu jazz is a genre of contemporary electronic music. The term was coined in the late 1990s to refer to music that blends jazz elements with other musical styles, such as funk, soul, electronic dance music, and free improvisation. Also written nü-jazz or NuJazz, it is sometimes called electronic jazz, electro-jazz, electric jazz, e-jazz, jazztronica, jazz house, phusion, neo-jazz, future jazz or Jazz-hop and electro-lounge.
According to critic Tony Brewer,
“Nu Jazz is to (traditional) Jazz what punk or grunge was to Rock, of course. [...] The songs are the focus, not the individual prowess of the musicians. Nu Jazz instrumentation ranges from the traditional to the experimental, the melodies are fresh, and the rhythms new and alive. It makes Jazz fun again.”
Nu jazz ranges from combining live instrumentation with beats of jazz house, exemplified by St Germain, Jazzanova and Fila Brazillia, to more band-based improvised jazz with electronic elements, such as that of The Cinematic Orchestra, Kobol, and the "future jazz" style pioneered by Bugge Wesseltoft, Jaga Jazzist, Nils Petter Molvær, and others.
Nu jazz typically ventures farther into the electronic territory than does its close cousin, acid jazz (or groove jazz), which is generally closer to earthier funk, soul, and rhythm and blues, although releases from noted groove & smooth jazz artists such as the Groove Collective, and Pamela Williams blur the distinction between the styles. Nu jazz can be very experimental in nature and can vary widely in sound and concept. The sound, unlike its cousin acid jazz, departs from its blues roots and instead explores electronic sounds and ethereal jazz sensualities. Nu jazz “is the music itself and not the individual dexterity of the musicians.” Often, nu jazz blends elements of traditional jazz texture with that of modern electronic music and free improvisation, thus, the music can truly evolve into a multitude of sounds and can vary greatly from artist to artist.
Nu jazz has its roots in the use of electronic instruments in production in the 1970s work of such luminaries as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Ornette Coleman. Hancock's early 1980s work with Bill Laswell, in particular, such as the album Future Shock, anticipated the style in its incorporation of electro and hip-hop rhythms. Bob James' 1982 album Hands Down reflected the popularity of electronic music and minimalist pop in the early 1980s. Beginning in the late '80s, many hip-hop musicians worked in the jazz rap style—among them, Gang Starr, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Nas. Also in the 1980s, many house musicians took inspiration from jazz, particularly post-bop and jazz funk.
In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, musicians from the downtempo scene, St Germain, DJ Takemura, Perry Hemus and Jazzanova among them, began to delve more deeply into jazz. In the same period, intelligent dance music producers —most famously Squarepusher and Spring Heel Jack, and later London Elektricity and Landslide— took a similar interest. Techno musicians, such as Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig and his Innerzone Orchestra project, have also touched on nu jazz. Some figures from the digital hardcore and breakcore scenes, notably Alec Empire, Nic Endo, and Venetian Snares, have explored a harder, noiser variant on the style. A decade later, some dubstep producers, such as Boxcutter, also explored electronic jazz.
While still embracing the traditional forms of jazz, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær are known for their improvisational nu jazz style. The Cinematic Orchestra is also known for incorporating a traditional jazz band while fusing electronic elements into their music production. St. Germain, a purveyor of nu jazz music, has sold 1.5 million copies of his Tourist album.
- Acid jazz
- Broken beat
- Gamm (record label)
- Groovera New Modern Radio
- Japanese jazz
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés Café (popular series of nu-jazz compilations)
- "A Flourish of Jazz", Time Magazine article, including mention of the use of electronics in jazz fusion.