Throwback Thursday: ‘New Music Nights’ in NYC – July 21-23, 1993

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein tells us about the three New Music Nights we hosted for New Music Seminar from July 21 to July 23 in 1993. Be sure to catch music from some of the great artists we presented after the jump! And as always, feel free to share with us your favorite memories from these nights and of these artists!

The first night of the New Music Seminar we presented under our Groove Academy name. We held it at the New Music Café, which later came to be known as the Canal Room.

Weldon Irvine was on the bill. He was a very well respected funk and soul artist from the 60s and 70s, was Nina Simone’s musical director in the 1960s, and co-wrote “Young, Gifted, & Black.” He also put out a number of very influential albums in the 1970s on RCA, which were heavily sampled and were very, very rare.

I met him when he came to the Giant Step club in 1991 at the Village Gate and introduced himself to me; I was totally blown away – I didn’t even know he was still alive! At that point, he’d been putting out music under the name Master Wel with his own band. Also important to note is that he trained a lot of the great funk and soul musicians who came out of Jamaica, Queens in the 1970s, like Marcus Miller, Don Blackman. In fact, Don Blackman was in his band.

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Throwback Thursday: Blaze @ SOBs – August 22 & 23, 1990

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein tells us about Blaze’s 1990 shows for their debut album. What were some of your favorite Blaze tunes?

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.

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Throwback Thursday: New Music Seminar Showcase @ Sweet Jane – June 17-20, 1992

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes us back to the 1992 New Music Seminar series of events we held at Sweet Jane, which culminated in a huge night with Atlanta band Arrested Development.

For a period of time in the summer of 1992, Giant Step weekly relocated to a venue called Sweet Jane that is today the Jane Hotel (legend has it that that was where survivors of Titantic where brought after the fatal accident). There was a large room, which was a like an old ballroom where somebody ran a club – I don’t remember his name, but he was a shady guy at the best of times. Actually, I think his name was Guy (maybe some of the old timers can jog my memory).

Every summer in New York there used to be something called the New Music Seminar, and that year we put together four nights of Groove Academy and Giant Step shows. This was our second year putting on events during New Music Seminar – the first year we had held our events at the Village Gate and will feature that one soon in this series.

It was a pretty big undertaking putting together four nights of music. The first night we had ED O.G and da Bulldogs, a live hip-hop band called SSL, which stood for Smoking Suckers With Logic, a band called Lovehead who were a local band, and Pal Joey, the DJ who produced the track “Hot Music.”

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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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