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, 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 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.”