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: Ginger Baker, Jonas Hellborg, & Jens Johansson @ SOBs – December 15, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us about our December 1991 show with Ginger Baker, Jonas Hellborg, and Jens Johansson at SOBs. What do you remember about this night? Any crazy Ginger Baker stories of your own?

Jonas Hellborg is a very talented Swedish bass guitar player who came to prominence in the early 80s. At that time, he was the bassist in the reformed Mahavishnu led by guitar player John McLaughlin. He settled in New York, and I was a big fan of him.

I believe the initial connection came in the form of a call where he called to say he wanted to work with us, which was a big surprise and a thrill for me, me being a fan. I think he noticed the work we were doing at Giant Step with the club and had heard about us from others. Around then, he was working with producer and bass player Bill Laswell who had the Axiom label on Island Records. Laswell would produce records with people like Bootsy Collins, Bernie Morell, Ginger Baker, etc.

Jonas decided that he wanted to do a show with Ginger Baker and Jens Johansson, who was the keyboard player in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band.

I was super excited about working with Ginger Baker who is a music legend; he was the drummer in Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, and was the drummer in Blind Faith. Ginger was also famous for his albums with Fela Kuti in the 1970s, and a notorious drug addict as well. He didn’t appear very often.

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Throwback Thursday: Jimmy Castor @ SOBs – March 13, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us about our March 1991 show with Jimmy Castor. What do you remember about this monumental show? Your favorite Jimmy Castor sample?

Jimmy Castor was on our list of artists to track down for our Groove Academy concerts. He was an artist who wasn’t really playing in New York anymore. In fact, this show was his first New York appearance in 10 years.

I don’t exactly remember how I managed to get his phone number. But once I got his number, I called him up and the first thing he said was, “I’d like to meet you.” I remember he drove into New York from New Jersey and we met him at one of those traditional Spanish restaurants next door to the Chelsea Hotel for dinner. He was interested to hear our proposal about a show, but also wanted us to understand where he was in his music career and why he was pretty much retired from the industry and very disillusioned with the business.

After a lot of talking and hearing him do his “Bertha Butt,” “King Kong” and “Troglodyte” voices, and a lot of persuasion, we were able to get him on board along with the “original” Bunch, which was his band. We wanted to hear the whole band do their parts when they performed the song “Potential” at the show.

Although Jimmy hadn’t put out any new music in years, he was, however, heavily sampled. Back then, a few of the many were “Gangsta Gangsta” by N.W.A. sampling “Troglodyte,” “Pump Up The Volume” by M|A|R|R|S, and “Watch Me Now” by Ultramagnetic MCs sampling “It’s Just Begun.” He’d also been working on new music, which he had us hear, including a track called “Firecracker” and one where he rapped about the fact he was heavily sampled.

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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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