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: Groove Collective Live Recording Session @ Clinton Recording Studios – June 25, 1993

 

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For today’s Throwback Thursday Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories on Groove Collective’s 1993 live recording event for their debut album. What do folks remember about these early Giant Step staples? Let us know!

Groove Collective was a band who grew out of the crew of musicians who jammed with our DJs at the Giant Step club. From there, we started managing the band and between the weekly club and their shows created a huge buzz and eventually got them signed to Reprise Records.

When it came time to put together the album, the idea was to capture the essence of Groove Collective’s live show experience since that’s what they were all about. We actually used to do shows with them every Friday at Sybarite on Wooster Street, and then moved the shows over to AKA on Houston Street where they continued the residency.

The album was recorded in three parts; we first did a live recording at the Giant Step club at Metropolis Café where the full band played with DJs Jazzy Nice and Smash and a mobile recording truck parked outside. The next day we held a live recording session at Clinton Recording Studios where we invited an audience of friends to help create the live show atmosphere. Finally, we mixed everything down, tracked it all and added overdubs at River Sound, the studio owned by Donald Fagan and Gary Katz of Steely Dan fame.

Gary Katz was instrumental in getting us signed to Reprise and produced the album, too. And Elliot Scheiner, who worked with Steely Dan and Eagles amongst other artists, mixed the album. They both did a great job of capturing the experience of a Groove Collective and Giant Step party while translating it into an album, too.

Throwback Thursday: Brand New Heavies @ SOBs – May 6, 1991

 

We’re super excited to present our third installment of Throwback Thursday. Today, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein recounts the Brand New Heavies’ debut NYC show.

This was the first of about four shows we did with Brand New Heavies. They were just about to release their debut album here on Delicious Vinyl; the original version was released on Acid Jazz in the UK.

We were playing The Brand New Heavies at Giant Step for quite a while. “A Dream Come True” originally came out with Jay Ella Ruth on vocals. But when the band signed to Delicious Vinyl in the United States, they decided to have N’Dea Davenport (another Delicious signee) become the vocalist.

They re-recorded some tracks like “A Dream Come True” for the American album version, and N’Dea definitely gave it a funkier sound. Also, “Never Stop” was an instrumental on the original album; when they recorded it for America, they had N’Dea sing on it.

This first New York show paired with an American debut album on the way got the band quite a big buzz. The show sold out. The who’s who of downtown New York were there – everybody wanted to see The Brand New Heavies. The place was packed, and people went bananas. It was a very energetic, memorable show

An aside – people might notice that we presented the show under the name Groove Academy at that time; This was because we wanted Giant Step as a club to stand alone and Groove Academy was the name were using for concerts back then.

The album came out and “Never Stop” was a radio hit. The following summer we had them play at our first anniversary show at The Palladium with Parliament Funkadelic headlining; The Brand New Heavies opened up and backed Blowfly as well – that’s a story for another time. [laughs]