Throwback Thursday: The Very First ‘Giant Step’ @ SOBs – September 24, 1990

 

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As we approach the 23rd anniversary of the very first Giant Step club, it’s only fitting that we highlight the historic night for this week’s Throwback Thursday! Join our President/CEO Maurice Bernstein as he takes us back to September 24, 1990 at SOBs. Were you one of the few that were with us in those early days? Tell us what you remember!

This was the very first flyer for Giant Step. After the success of the Groove Academy shows in the summer of 1990, our goal was to set up a weekly party that focused on the jazz and dance movement that we were familiar with in London. We were very influenced by Dingwall’s Sunday party and The Wag Club, which I used to go to when I lived in London and Jonathan Rudnick (Giant Step co-founder) had visited as well.

But we didn’t want to just do a straight version of that; we wanted to bring in the elements that were fundamental to New York – one being hip-hop music – so, we decided to mix jazz and hip-hop together. However, there was very little music like that at that time – there was Tribe that was mixing jazz with some of their hip-hop and Gang Starr had just done “Jazz Thing.” It was also tough to find DJs who really knew how to play the music and make people dance, plus there weren’t really records

I ended up picking DJ Smash who I used go hear at Save The Robots, which was a famous after hours in New York in the 80′s. What I liked about Smash was his amazing music sensibility and knowledge, as well as his ability to mix anything, which is something that British DJs didn’t really have the ability to do. He was able to take original jazz records and mix them with hip-hop – exactly what we needed.

We were given Mondays by SOBs because it was a dead night for them. If I remember correctly, our original night had more people working than actual guests. Cool to note: there are in fact a few people who came to the opening who still come to Giant Step parties – Michael July is one of them. A lot of people claim to have been there in the early days, but I remember every single person that was there the first night because there weren’t that many of them.

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Throwback Thursday: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars @ Palladium – June 25, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes it back to the Groove Academy first year anniversary at Palladium in 1991. Featuring George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, the Brand New Heavies, and Blowfly, it was nothing short of an incredibly memorable night. Were you there? Tell us what you remember!

This was our first anniversary concert for the Groove Academy. Groove Academy was the concert division we set up pre-Giant Step where we presented artists from the funk and soul era. Over the course of our run as Groove Academy, we put on shows with acts like the JB’s, Bobby Byrd, and Bootsy Collins, so to have George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars for our first anniversary was kind of like reaching the motherland – or should I say, Mothership.

We decided to go big and chose the iconic Palladium in New York as our venue, which is now a PC Richards and an NYU dorm. The venue held about 3000 people.

The line up also included Brand New Heavies, who we’d recently done a debut show with a couple months earlier. As a special guest, we had Blowfly. Blowfly is Clarence Reid from Florida who would dress up in a mask and cape and perform X-rated versions of well-known songs. To note, he is also a well-respected writer of tracks for Betty Wright, Sam & Dave, and Gwen McCrae, amongst others.

Blowfly was the opening act. We didn’t really have the budget to bring his band out, so we asked the Brand New Heavies if they’d be the backing band; they said “yes,” but to be honest they didn’t know much about his act. They all had a quick chat pre-show where Blowfly explained he would be doing his version of certain soul classics like Otis Redding’s “Sitting on The Dock Of The Bay” and KC & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way I Like It.” I think the only member of the Heavies who actually knew about Blowfly, his unique XXX rated lyrics, and that he was a respected songwriter in his own right was N’Dea Davenport, the singer. 


We started off the show, and Blowfly came out with the Brand New Heavies as the backing band. Blowfly started a monologue, which of course was extremely X-rated with talk about people’s private parts and all sorts of rude stuff. It was part of his show, but I don’t think the Brand New Heavies really understood that. So, as he was talking, telling everyone to go eff themselves and speaking in a misogynistic way about women, the Brand New Heavies were getting more and more embarrassed by being on stage with this guy who they didn’t really even know. And as he’s talking, the band one by one leave the stage out of embarrassment.

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Throwback Thursday: Jamiroquai US Debut Show @ Supper Club – Nov 4, 1993

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes it back to Jamiroquai’s US debut! We know you’ve got some Jamiroquai memories – serve ‘em up!

This was Jamiroquai’s US debut. We first became familiar with them in the very early 90s when they released the “Too Young To Die” single on Acid Jazz. Very quickly, they were signed to a major deal on Sony in the UK. This was first artist we worked with from the “acid jazz” scene that really garnered major label interest. You had the Brand New Heavies before that, but this was huge – it was a massive, massive deal.

The album came out in the UK; it was a double album called Emergency On Planet Earth and it went straight to number one – #1 in Europe, #1 in Japan – massive. Keep in mind that before this all happened, the type of music we were all promoting was underground and not mainstream at all – but this was total mainstream.

With that said, it was then time for Jamiroquai to come to the US. Leading up to the show, the band came out to the states a few times to do bits of promo, and each time they’d come to the club and hang out with us; we got to get to know the guys pretty well.

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Throwback Thursday: Giant Step @ Mr. C’s, Los Angeles – Sep 14, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein talks about bringing our legendary Giant Step club to Los Angeles! Were you on the west coast for one of these? Let us know what you remember!

This was the debut of Giant Step Los Angeles, which we held as a bi-monthly for a few months. We teamed up with Brass – the equivalent of Giant Step in Los Angeles or our LA kindred spirits, you could say. Brass was run by Orlando Aguillen, Daz, Blackurn, and Marques Wyatt.

When we came out, we brought with us Jazzy Nice, our emcee Jamal Ski, and Richard Worth on flute – all were part of the Giant Step crew. Camella Ehlke of Triple 5 Soul acted as our fashion muse and styled everyone at the time.

It was great, and the first time I really got to see the scene in Los Angeles. We saw how positively people were responding to the music out there and realized the opportunity to grow this on a national level.

The Los Angeles crowd was a little more laid back than NYC. Another thing I remember is that everything closed so early – the party ended at 2AM. For our club in NYC, 1:30AM is when everyone would arrive – we’d open the doors at 11PM, but it wasn’t really until 1:30AM that the party would start. 1:30 to 3:30, 4AM – that was the real time to be at our party in NYC. But for this LA event, everything was pretty much winding down at 1:30AM. So, getting into the difference of the rhythm was interesting.

The overall vibe was great – great dancers, really wonderful people. I was very impressed.

Throwback Thursday: Groove Collective Debut Album Release Party @ AKA – March 25, 1994

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares a funny story about the Groove Collective debut album release party in 1994. Chime in with your memories from the evening!

Groove Collective’s debut album came out on Reprise, which was part of Warner Brothers Records – we had the record release party planned for that same spring. The event was to be held at AKA where the band kept their Friday night weekly residency.

Funny enough, the show never actually happened; the fire marshal shut it down because we had so many people trying to get in. We were over capacity inside the venue and there were still hundreds of people waiting outside. It still ended up being a great way to celebrate the album coming out, though – having a crowd so big that it all got shut down.