Photo: Art of Cool Festival in Durham – April 25 & 26

Photos by Jen Diaz

Coming straight from Bull City after a two-day live music binge is a must. If you haven’t already enjoyed that type of adventure, start planning for next year. The Art of Cool Festival made its debut this past weekend taking over Durham, North Carolina and inviting a city to enjoy the sounds of Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B with a world-class lineup. A few artists on the bill were Maceo Parker, The Foreign Exchange, Amel Larrieux, Hubert Laws, Kneebody, KING, Thundercat and Cody ChestnuTT, just to name a few. Venues were filled across town and the streets were packed with music-lovers navigating their way through the performances. Be sure to support this tremendous effort to highlight Jazz and all of its influences by donating to the Art of Cool Project.

Keep Jazz Alive!

Throwback Thursday: Leon Thomas & the JB’s @ SOB’s – June 20 & 21, 1990

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes us back to the very first Groove Academy show with Leon Thomas and The JB’s in June 1990.

This was the very first Groove Academy show. Before I started working with my original partner, Jonathan Rudnick, I was doing clubs and parties in New York. And where possible, I tried to incorporate live music into my events. There were really only a couple of nightclub venues that had the live music capability, though – MK and Nell’s.

I’d often fly around on my roller skates to drop off show flyers promoting my parties. During one of my runs, a friend of mine who owned a boutique in the East Village told me about a musician friend of hers who looking to make a comeback. And once she told me her friend was Leon Thomas, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Leon was a jazz singer who’d worked with artists like Pharoah Sanders and Santana. He also had his own albums on the Flying Dutchman label in the 1970s, but you really needed to be a bit of a crate digger to know who he was.

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Throwback Thursday: Bootsy Collins @ SOBs – Sep 26 & 27, 1990

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein tells us about Bootsy Collins’ fall 1990 shows at SOBs.

We started the Groove Academy shows in June of 1990 with Leon Thomas and The JBs. The JBs featured Maceo Parker, Pee wee Ellis, and Fred Wesley. And after meeting those guys, I was able to meet Bobby Byrd – also a James Brown alumni.

By continuing to put on shows with these artists and building their trust, we came to a place where we were able to ask Bobby’s wife Vicky Anderson if she could give us Bootsy Collins’ number. Bootsy was also an alumni of James Brown plus a member of Funkadelic.

We wanted to bring Bootsy to New York for a show – he hadn’t played New York in 5 years. I didn’t realize that Bootsy was living at home with his mother at the time. So when I called, his mother answered and I said, “Excuse me, is Bootsy there, please?” And she said, “Hold on a second.” She shouted up the stairs, “William! There’s some guy with a strange accent on the phone.”

Bootsy came to the phone and in the trademark Bootsy voice started talking to me. I explained who I was, that Vicky Anderson and Bobby Byrd had given me his number, and that I wanted to know if he’d be interested to coming to New York and doing some shows for us. He said, “Yeah, I need to you speak to my brother, he takes care of all the arrangements.” Bootsy’s brother was Catfish Collins, another James Brown alumni.

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Giant Step’s 20th Anniversary: Groove Academy Flyers (1990-1996)

This short video collage chronicles the shows and events from 1990 through 1996 of the company that preceded Giant Step: The Groove Academy. This is the first time that the flyers and posters of Groove Academy shows have been digitized.

The concept behind The Groove Academy was to give an opportunity for the masters of funk and groove to perform their craft in front of a young audience and new generation of fans as most only knew these artists from samples used in hip-hop and rap. At this time, many of the originators were in fact forgotten in the USA and had to go to Europe and Japan to make a living. The Groove Academy was determined to help re-launch careers in the States and give them their just props!

As time went on and Giant Step was born, The Groove Academy became the concert wing of the company and helped to introduce new artists. By the mid 1990s, The Groove Academy came to an end, putting all events under the unified umbrella of Giant Step.

Stay tuned for more memorabilia as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and please share any memories, feedback, or your own photos from this historic time. To see the individual flyers and posters from this video, view the album on our facebook page.