We started out the Groove Academy in June of 1990 with our main focus on shows highlighting older funk & soul artists, but the third show we did was with a new group called Blaze from New Jersey.
Representing the New Jersey underground house scene, they were heavily influenced by 70s soul, dance music, and gospel. Signed to Motown by Timmy Regisford, Blaze were pegged as the next generation of the label (in the spirit of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”).
We were really excited to work with them, especially with Blaze being a band that I was very keen on and the fact that Motown had really gotten behind them. Their tune “So Special” was a big hit in NY house music community.
For the shows – which also happened to be the only dates Blaze did for their debut album, 25 Years Later – they put together a live 8-piece band. They were headed by Kevin Hedge who now DJs with Louie Vega at Roots every Wednesday and also has a radio show on WBLS on Friday. His partner Josh Milan is still recording and making records and is a great pianist and vocalist.
The album they made was an absolute classic – it came out way ahead of its time. Influenced heavily by Marvin Gaye and James Brown, Blaze’s sound and vibe took it back to the conscious age of club music. People were referring to them as America’s answer to Soul II Soul.
Rochelle Fleming appeared as the special guest vocalist for the night; She was well known as the vocalist in First Choice and had hits with “Dr. Love,” “Let No Man Put Asunder,” and “Love Thang”. The DJ over the two nights was WBLS‘s Bobby Konders known for his reggae sets. It was a very lively show with a brilliant energy. Blaze bringing the album and the club sound to a live environment was amazing, and something I’ll never forget.