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: Freestyle Fellowship @ Metropolis – May 6, 1993

 

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For today’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories of our May 6, 1993 show with Freestyle Fellowship. And as always, we’d love for you to join us in reminiscing on the night and sharing your favorite Freestyle Fellowship memories!

Out of Los Angeles, California, Freestyle Fellowship were from the same era of LA rap groups like The Pharcyde. They were signed to 4th and Broadway and had a very jazzy hip-hop feel to them – kind of like the west coast juxtaposition to De La and Tribe. Their “Park Bench People” track in particular was a big hit for us down at the club. Jose James actually covered it many years later on The Dreamer.

This show was at Metropolis, which was the classic Giant Step venue. Metropolis was in the basement of what is now Blue Water Grill. It held about 250-300 people but we’d get like 400-500 people, all smoking and drinking. In this day and age, so many people would never be allowed in a club like that – those are times that are totally gone.

Freestyle Fellowship had a young manager named Kedar who was very impressive and also quite pushy, which definitely helped him get my attention quite early.

After managing Freestyle Fellowship, Kedar went on to manage D’Angelo, helped discover Erykah Badu, and eventually became the President of Motown Records where he signed India Arie. He’s also someone who took credit for coining the term “neo soul.” Like I said, a very impressive guy.

Having Daddy-O from Stetsasonic as a guest was a very nice addition to the bill. He was actually introduced to us by Kedar as his brother. For those that are not familiar, Stetsasonic were a hip-hop band from the late 80s/early 90s. One of their most popular tracks was a song called “Talking All That Jazz” that sampled Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions,” which also was a big hit at the club.

It was a very memorable show – a hot, sweaty, sticky late night downtown. Great band to see live.

Rest In Peace, George Duke

 

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Legendary keyboardist George Duke has passed at the age of 67. Left behind are over 30 solo albums and credit for creating bridges between Brazilian music, funk, R&B, and jazz. His work crossed several decades and included collaborations with Miles Davis, Anita Baker, Frank Zappa, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, and George Clinton – some of the very best

His work carried over the generations and has been sampled by Daft Punk, Common, Kanye West, MF Doom, Madlib, Pete Rock, Ice Cube, and A Tribe Called Quest.

In July of this year, Duke released a new album called DreamWeaver in memory of his wife who passed just over a year ago.

Duke and his ongoing contributions to music will be sorely missed.

Below, watch Duke perform one of our favorite tracks, “Dukey Stick,” with Sheila E in studio. After the jump, find rare footage of a full live show at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Billy Cobham.

Montreux Jazz Festival performance after the jump

Throwback Thursday: De La Soul & A Tribe Called Quest @ Ritz – Feb 16, 1992

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us his memory of a 1992 De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest show at Ritz.

This show was at the Ritz, New York. The Ritz used to be where Webster Hall is now, but at this point the Ritz had moved uptown into what was Studio54. It was a big venue.

The show happened on President’s Day weekend and was a double bill with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. While we’d worked with Tribe before, this was the first show we did with De La. It was a Sunday, there was no school on Monday, and it was absolutely ram packed. Everybody wanted to be there. I mean, Tribe in ‘92, De La in ‘92, you know? It was pretty incredible – great performances with great energy. This was a classic, classic New York show.

One of the things that I remember very distinctly – and I actually talked to Q-Tip about this as well – there was a big fight by the side of stage. All these different posses came down and they were all standing at this side area. People would go up and they’d all start freestyling during the performers’ sets. When the fight happened, I remember Tip turning around – he was on stage – and just saying, “Can you guys just all chill out?” It was one of the first times I’d seen a fight at one of our events. It was very rare that something like that would happen at a Giant Step event. But when these posses would roll in, there was always beef between somebody and somebody.

Throwback Thursday: Digable Planets @ Supper Club – Nov 10, 1993

 

For Throwback Thursday this week, Maurice recounts our first Digable Planets show! Get the scoop below.

I first found out about Digable Planets around 1992. I received a call from Dennis Wheeler, President of Pendulum Records, which was an imprint on Elektra. He knew what we were doing at Giant Step and told me he wanted to send over some demos of a new band they’d signed to hear our response. So, they sent me the demos and I thought it was very Tribe-esque [see: A Tribe Called Quest]. I ended up meeting with the band and the label to explore how Giant Step could help Digable Planets, and this actually became a very early marketing project for us without really realizing it.

Digable Planets finished “Cool Like That” and brought the test press of the track to the Giant Step club, which was then in the basement at Metropolis Café. We tested the song out on the Giant Step crowd – first time that record was ever played in public – and it went down brilliantly; people went crazy. Inspired by the response from the crowd that night, the guys went home and they made The Crashing Giant Step Mix, which was on the original 12” of “Cool Like That.”

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