Mr Boogie AKA The Vinyl Junkie

Diggin’ Deep | Mr Boogie AKA The Vinyl Junkie…

Diggin Deep: Mr Boogie AKA The Vinyl Junkie

This Sunday at The Forge in Camden we welcome back the London Latin don Mr Boogie AKA The Vinyl Junkie to the Dig A Little turntables. A regular fixture in our programming in recent months, read on for the full skinny on one of our favourite selectors.

Born into the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the French capital and with parents of Ugandan descent,  Mr Boogie was never going to be the type of person who just played any old record. Having spent his formative years split between Paris and West Africa, in his teens he made the move to the UK where he set about putting his burgeoning love for music to good use. A keen traveller with a love for a dusty basement or two, Mr Boogie took full advantage of frequent stopovers in cities such as New York and Havana to dig deep into the vast history of Latin American music and beyond. As his record collection grew, bustling now with killer selections from a wider catalogue of classic funk, soul, boogie, Jazz and continental rhythms, he sought to perfect his craft in public, and soon found himself installed as a resident DJ at the much loved salsa sessions at Shaftesbury Avenue’s Bar Rumba.

Since then he’s made his own distinctive mark on the capital’s dance scene, running his own Soulsa® Productions music event, promotion and management company, promoting his own ‘Melting Pot’ event (currently residing the last Friday of every month at our own local Forest Tavern!) and hosting its associated radio show (monthly on Shoreditch Radio). Of course, with such an amiable personality and a bag full of nice tunes, his name is never too far away from other DJ bills where he has played special guest and resident slots in and around London and beyond, as well as making appearances at The London Jazz Festival, London Latin American Film Festival and even BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend!

We’re very much looking forward to welcoming him back behind the Forge turntables this Sunday for the evening DJ slot, playing records a little before, after and in between the band sets which this month will feature Jessica Lauren on keys, Jason Smpson on bass, Gaetano Di Giacomo on drums and special guest Dave Orchanct on trumpet for two sets of lively Soul Jazz!

In the meanwhile however, and as a little precursor to the main event, we asked Mr Boogie to share a few tunes with a few back stories. Here’s what he had to say…

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# 1: Gary Bartz “Music Is My Sanctuary”

I had been to New York on several occasions prior to that but this was my first proper digging trip to the Big Apple. My budget had long been reached but on the recommendation of a friend and against my better judgement, I popped into Second Hand Rose’s Music – a record shop located within spitting distance of Union Square. Gary Bartz was a name that was already familiar to me but it was that unmistakable Mizell Brothers production, particularly audible on ‘Carnaval de l’Esprit’, that helped seal the deal. Skipping lunch that day to get that record was worth the sacrifice. Some may choose to disagree but for a vinyl junkie like me, it was money well spent.

#2: Cymande “Bra”

On a separate New York trip, I stumbled across Sound Fix – a Brooklyn record store that is sadly no longer in existence. Various reissues of Cymande’s self titled LP have been floating around for years. The limited edition on clear blue vinyl however had, until then, remained elusive. The record in question was sitting on a shelf high up and my reaction was almost instant. Like Matt Lucas’s character in Little Britain, I blurted out to the guy behind the counter: “I want that one!” To date, it’s the most I have ever splurged on a piece of wax


#3: Beny More “Beny Canta Y Cuba Baila”

I was first introduced to ‘El Barbaro Del Ritmo’ (The wild man of the rhythm) via a British Guinness commercial from 2000 that featured a Snail Race. Little did I know at the time that I was about to catch the Latin music bug. While visiting Cuba a mere couple of years later, I was awakened to Beny Moré’s musical legacy. Feeling compelled to add an original recording of his to my collection, I found myself bartering away with an opportunistic street vendor. He drove a hard bargain but despite my limited knowledge of the local vernacular, the issue was amicably settled over a fistful of Cuban Pesos.

#4: Ronny Jordan “The Antidote”

This was one of my earliest vinyl purchases and dates back to my teenage years spent in Folkestone on the South East coast of Kent. Hummingbird was one of the few decent record shops in town and a favoured meeting point for local DJs and music enthusiasts.

I was still very much in my Hip Hop phase but had slowly started to gravitate towards Jazz. Very few artists on these shores could marry Hip Hop and Jazz better than Ronny Jordan. His funky and tasteful reinterpretation of So What eventually led me to its original composer – Miles Davis. The rest, as the proverbial saying goes, is history.

This is as much an ode to the now defunct record shop as it is to the late guitarist who was seen by some as Britain’s answer to George Benson.

Dig A Little NW1 - The July Session

Nik Weston

Diggin’ Deep | Nik Weston (Mukatsuku Records)

Nik Weston

Ahead of this Sunday’s inaugural Dig A Little in Camden Town, we thought we would ask the man who’s spinning the tunes in the evening to share some of his treasured vinyl memories.

Nik Weston is no stranger to records. Since starting his first club night in the UK in 1995, he’s been playing them, importing them, selling them and producing them to much acclaim. As the founder of the Mukatsuku Records imprint, he’s reissued numerous hard to find tracks from around the world, as well as given a step up to some lesser known (but no more talented!) producers. His travels as a DJ have taken him across Europe and Asia, while stop offs in his beloved Japan, where over the past decade he has been instrumental in bringing the country’s own cosmopolitan sounds to a European audience, have been plentiful. He is of course equally at home in our fair capital and with numerous long running residencies under his belt, he’s more than aware of how to coax the customary London wallflower onto the dancefloor.

As a champion of all things vinyl, Nik is of course no stranger to the odd dusty basement or remote record store, and over the years he’s amassed an enviable Jazz collection that he is more than happy to showcase (as a cursory glance at his Mixcloud page will attest). With that in mind we’re more than happy to welcome him onto the decks as a special guest at our first Dig A Little at The Forge Arts and Music venue in Camden Town this Sunday. In between and after the band sets, he’ll be supplying plenty Jazz dance and assorted rhythms for the evening crowd, while of course, Jessica Lauren (keys), Claude Deppa (trumpet), Ben Bastin (bass) and Gaetano Di Giacomo (drums) will be on hand to make sure the live segment sizzles!

We all love a crate digging tale here at Dig A Little HQ, so with that in mind and as a little precursor to Sunday’s event, Nik gives up the goods on three tasty morsels. If anyone has got the Veda Brown 45 going spare, give him a shout and help a digger in need!

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#1: Teramasa Hino Quintet “Snake Hip”

My first trip to Japan was in the mid to late 90’s. At that time Tokyo in particular was a goldmine for records, especially Brazilian, Jazz, Disco and boogie. The preceding years had seen Japanese diggers bulk buying some of the best records from Brazil and Europe as they visited outside their homeland scouring for wax. There was over 70 record shops in Shibuya alone and it used to take me 4-5 days to get to most of them before shipping crates back to Blighty. Additionally, there used to be a massive five-floor HMV in Shibuya and on my first visit I remember sinking to the floor in amazement at the size of the Jazz department! It was huge and had the most amazing selection of Jazz, Latin and Brazilian CD reissues I had ever seen. It was all too much – they seemed to have EVERYTHING!!

Even though I was reeling from what I had seen at HMV, for my first visit to Japan I had wanted to secure a copy of Teramasu Hino’s “Snake Hip” on the Columbia 7 inch with a fold out poster. A friend suggested that we go hunting in Recofan (a massive video, books and record building in Shibuya – alas since closed down) as they had a great Jazz section among rows and rows of funk, rock and pop. Four hours later I took about forty albums to the cash till but still no elusive 7 inch. It was just as I was paying that I looked behind the counter to a brightly covered wall adorned with picture sleeve 7 inch records of English punk records, rock, disco and one 45 that caught my eye, YES, there is was TERAMASU HINO “SNAKE HIP”! complete with fold out poster sleeve. Happy? Trust me I was ‘Pharrelled’ to have found that 45!

#2: Seikou Nagaoka “I thought It Was You / Speed Of Love”

This elusive 12″, which came out on the small Aosis label imprint and was restricted to 400 copies only, originally came to my attention in 2000 via respected diggers Mark ‘GV’ Taylor and DMR Tokyo buyer Mitsuru Ogawa.

The interesting thing about this 12 was that it had a terrible version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘I Thought It was You’ on the A side so people tended to ignore it, especially the Japanese who would often overlook their own home grown artists. The gem however was on the flip… ‘Speed Of Love’ is a killer modern jazz dance fusion track. I soon secured my copy, but after only a few weeks, I  stepped on the record at home and cracked it so it became unplayable. On my next trip to Japan my number one priority was to secure replacement as well as some additional copies for my music hungry friends. Luckily for me on the second day of digging in Shibuya, I found not one but five mint unplayed copies in one of the Cisco Record stores. The record went on to become expensive, fetching at one stage almost £100, although now you can pick one up for 10% of that price.

Three years after its release,  I met Seikou Nagaoka whilst compiling a Japanese compilation for Aosis/Victor Music Japan and I put the track on a 12″ again (this time on the A side!), as well as including it on the full compilation CD. It still sounds good!

#3: Veda Brown “Take It Off Her”

Last summer I managed to finally find a copy of a seven inch that I had been looking for since 1988. It first came to my attention via the Stax & Volt (Sirens & Vamps) compilation and I’d been hunting down this 45 ever since. It had been on my watch list on eBay for eight years and although copies turned up often, I was either outbid or the condition was battered. One Sunday I was in Brighton digging through a side street Sunday market off one of the Brighton lanes. There was an Amercian guy selling off a mixture of soul and funk 45s as well as tatty Jazz and funk LPs, many without sleeves. The odd interesting title but generally the condition was not all that. One of the interesting things was in each of the LPs there were 45s and the odd family photo snap tucked down the side of many of the sleeves. Most of the 45s were Stax artists… Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Aretha Franklin and in one Funkadelic sleeve there was tucked the black gold of a Veda Brown 45! I was sweating, shaking and felt myself going red – Good job I don’t play poker! I tried to play it cool but failed miserably and in the panic just picked up a random pile of LPs/45s, gave the man a wad of cash and walked away very quickly. The 45 was spotless. The story might have had a happy ending but three weeks later I was DJing at the South London Soul Train outdoor festival before Rob Messener and it was so dark that I stupidly left a pile of records on the floor when I had gone home after my set. Rob kindly sent a message saying he’d found them there (I hadn’t even realised before leaving) and that Snowboy had picked them up for me. I went to see Snowboy after his Lisa Stansfield rehearsal and he gave me what Rob had given him when he found them. Alas there were a few records missing and although I’ve managed to replace most of those 45s, the Veda Brown “Take It Off Her” remains sadly elusive and back on my eBay wants list. Anyone out there got a spare? Come on people!  I need it!!

For The Record - Eldica

For The Record | Andrew Westbury (Eldica Records)

Eldica Records, Dalston

In amongst the newly gentrified streets of Dalston, where burnt leeks and duck gizzard can now be ordered by the bucket load, there still lies a little shop that is of interest to the most discerning of record collectors. Behind the unassuming storefront on Bradbury Street, where retro trinkets compete with slightly dog eared seven inches for space in the big front window, there’s wooden rack space a plenty filled to the brim with newly unearthed vinyl covering the golden period of black music.

In an area where it’s now perhaps more important to be seen than to be heard, Eldica stands out with little pretence as a small record shop with a big heart, while its proprietor Andrew Westbury is more than happy to share his knowledge and engage in lengthy discourse about your genre of choice (just don’t mention house music!). Open six days a week (the shop is closed on Mondays), the store is a regular haunt for both local music aficionados and crate diggers further afield, while a cursory look at Eldica’s photo albums on their Facebook page show it’s also a hit for the many international DJs who pass through London on their travels.

Away from the shop, Andy loves to get involved in other music ventures. He’s a regular guest at the monthly Digger’s Dozen sessions held locally at The Alibi in Dalston, while you will also find him manning the occasional stall at the growing number of pop up record fairs that happen in and around the capital,  including the prestigious London Record Fair.

With all that being said, we are pleased to announce that Andy will be bringing a selection of Eldica goodies to the Forest Tavern this Saturday as one of our guest sellers. As well as residing over his sale crates, he will also be getting involved on the DJ front, dropping some of his current faves on the decks during the day. As a little pre-cursor to Saturday’s event, check out this killer mix of Caribbean tunes he did for the Sofrito website and then read on to learn a little more about Andy and the shop!

Caribbean Boogie Selection for Sofrito – Andy Westbury (Eldica) by Sofrito on Mixcloud

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Q. Hi Andy, for those of us who have perhaps yet to make it to the shop, can you give us a little insight to what your record shop has to offer?

Eldica is a small family run shop that specialises in most aspects of black music.We are mostly second-hand and have a high turnover of Funk, Soul, Reggae, Calypso, Jazz, Boogie on all vinyl formats. We also sell retro items from old amps and record decks to Levi’s jeans, Incense and small gifts. Eldica was actually my wife Annie’s grandmother who came to London from Fyzabad in Trinidad in 1948. She was married to a musician, also from Trinidad, who played trumpet on a lot of Calypso sessions recorded in London in the 50’s and which were released on Melodisc.

Q. And what about yourself… how did you first get into music? Do you remember the first record you picked up and where it came from?

I was born in 1969 and my first musical passion was electro and rap around 1983, which I discovered through my older cousin and Tim Westwood on LWR – I  still have tapes of all the shows and still listen to them now. We used to go up to town from Harrow and buy a couple of import rap 12s from Groove Records in Soho, and occasionally Hitman if Groove didn’t have what we wanted.

I remember Westwood playing ‘Get on the Good Foot’ by James Brown and stating that this started Hip Hop which fuelled an interest in JB plus other funky tracks. He also at the time was playing old rap tapes from New York with the baddest breaks, all of which contained the classics which I had to try and track down.

I eventually saw James Brown live in 1985 and from then on I was really looking for all types of records, anything funky, anything with a drum break and all the latest Rap tunes.

Q. So it’s pretty fair to say the store has been been a underground favourite for years, even going as far as being a secret spot that perhaps some people would have preferred to keep to themselves! Can you share with us some of the past guests that might have dropped in for a quick dig while in Dalston?

You would be surprised at who has come through the door, from top DJs known worldwide to guys and girls just starting out who come in and perhaps buy a turntable from us and then start picking up records. Being in Dalston which has and has always had a rich musical culture, we get a lot of the old reggae sound system guys who have probably been buying reggae for more than 40 years!

Q. With regard the shop, you must see a lot of stock come and go. What are some of the records that you know will fly out as soon as you get them in, no matter what the price or condition?

All the classics, the building blocks, Roy Ayers, James Brown, Kool and the Gang, Parliament are all still strong, while good Boogie 12s, Afro and Calypso are still big. We are strong on the Calypso and Island Funk stuff, as its been a passion of mine for a good while now and as a result a lot of good stuff has come through the shop. We have new records coming in literally every day.

Q. And we guess you must come across new collections all the time, what’s the craziest track or LP you’ve found amongst the piles?

Off the top of my head one interesting collection we brought in in around six months or so ago was from a builder who was knocking down a cavity wall in someone’s house and found two shelves of records behind it. They had literally been shut away I’d say for at least the last 50 years ago! The records were mint, vinyl and covers and all Jazz, Rare British Jazz, Tubby Hayes for example, and at least thirty first press Blue Notes, some from the 50s but nothing later than 1965. They probably lasted about two weeks in the shop!

Q. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon recently when it comes to record collecting and there certainly seems to have been some kind of renewed interest in vinyl. Have you noticed a change in your clientèle as the years have progressed?

We are mainly a second hand store so we don’t really deal in trends, we sell what we have been selling for six or seven years and as long as we can still find good records to sell, that’s not going to change. I’m not really interested in the apparent upsurge in vinyl, as I’ve said we are mainly second-hand so it doesn’t really affect us. Gimmicks like Record Store Day don’t interest us either, every day is record store day at Eldica.

We did have a customer a few months ago on a Saturday who came in to buy a record, spent £15 and didn’t want a bag so he could walk down the street holding an LP because he thought it was trendy. He didn’t care what he had bought and didn’t even have a deck!!

Q. Finally, can you share a few of the bits you’ll be bringing down to sell on Saturday? 
We have a nice selection for Saturday, nice copies of both The London Jazz Four LPs, a bunch of Island Funk 45s as well as some nice Calypso and Reggae LPs. I’ll also be looking at some Soul and Funk 45s and a Reggae collection before the fair –  so you just never know what you might turn up in the crates!

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For a further glimpse into the little shop, check out this entertaining clip featuring IG Culture, produced by Holy Roller Productions last year.

Deano Sounds (Cultures of Soul)

Diggin’ Deep | Deano Sounds (Cultures of Soul)

Deano Sounds (Cultures of Soul)

It’s certainly been a while since we delved into the back stories of someone else’s favourite finds. Luckily, Deano Sounds of Cultures of Soul was more than up for the challenge.

In the vinyl game, it could be said that the field is split into those that love records and those that LOVE records. They are the guys (and girls) who live and breath music, who constantly dig for those rarities that often elude the majority and are always willing to share their knowledge for the greater good of their collection. Then there are the few who start record labels to present their passion to a wider audience and in the process help older artists get a new lease of life, forgotten songs to be rediscovered and whole catalogues of long out of print music to be revitalised.

It seems fair to say that Boston’s Deano Sounds may well fall in to all of the categories above. A consumate cratedigger with a skill for DJing, Sounds has been collecting vinyl for more than a decade. Back in 2008, as a conduit for his burgeoning passion, he started the Cultures of Soul radio show where he sought to bring an eclectic and international menu of lesser known, dancefloor ready tracks to the airwaves. The Cultures of Soul imprint soon followed and taking its cue from Sounds ear for a good tune, it has quickly amassed a sizeable catalogue of rare and adventurous releases representing artists from around the world. Ranging from the reissue of seldom seen albums from Evans Pyramid and Stanton Davis, through to compilations that bring together the finest in outernational sounds, the label is certainly not afraid to take risks to dig deep and bring lost musical treasures back to the surface.

As a DJ, Sounds has put his record collection to good use, appearing as a recurring guest at Boston’s premier soul night ‘Soulelujah’ as well as holding down residencies at some of the hippest venues in the Boston area. He’s also been given the opportunity to play further afield, taking in stops at established nights in Pittsburgh (Title Town Soul and Funk Party), Los Angeles (Funky Sole) and Brooklyn (Let’s Boogaloo), as well as numerous events in our own fair city of London.

With the recent summer release of the label’s latest offering Tropical Disco Hustle now complete, Sounds is turning his attention to following up this year’s other popular compilation Bombay Disco with a second volume. While we wait for that to arrive, you can dip into a few of his historical tales of true diggers luck!

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#1: Mickey Larry and the Exciters “Stranded In the Middle of No Place”

I was taking a trip through a rural area that was heavily populated with antique stores and at first I didn’t think too much of a hand made sign that said “Fruit, Hay, And Collectibles” But then it occurred to me that it was worth a shot so I turned the car around to go back. I pulled up to what was literally a fruit stand, a barn full of hay and horses, and a small shelter filled with antiques and junk. In one of the back corners there was a metal tin that was full of 45s. Included were some garage 45s from the Detroit label Hideout Records, a rare local psych 45 by a group called the Shadows, a handful of R&B 45s on the Vee-Jay label including the Rhythm Aces, the Spaniels, El Darados, and this 45 on the coveted Twinight label. These records were stranded in the middle of no place!

#2: Lord Rhaburn Combo “Bird’s Isle Is Forever”

There used to be a decent record store not too far from where I lived. It’s now closed and I’ve since moved away. I’m usually a pretty thorough digger and I try and look through all of the sections a store has to offer from world to soul to disco to jazz to rock. But I am really glad I looked through the world section that day! What I found wedged in between an Israeli folk LP and Polka music from Greece was, the Bird’s Isle Is Forever LP by the Lord Rhaburn Combo that contains the killer “Disco Connection” track. I think I did a double take twice! The cover was just so unassuming placed between those run of the mill international LPs. How could this rare Belizean disco LP be in a store in Cambridge, MA and how come no one else picked it up? It was only $5.99! Also of note is that the drummer for Mission of Burma used to work in that store!

#3: Smith Whitaker and Company “Don’t Play No Games with My Love”

Here is one of my favorite scores, from many moon’s ago when I was still relatively new to the game of record digging. It was at a local radio station’s record fair which I almost didn’t even go to because the station at the time mainly played folk music and I don’t really collect folk records per se. But it turns it the station had a pretty popular smooth jazz program on in the early 80s. Hence they had an amazing collection of disco 12″s and LPs which they were purging at the time.  When I first walked into the fair there was an area with more pricey Jazz LPs so I went there first thinking there may be some interesting Blue Note or Prestige LPs. But no luck. Then I saw a section labeled R&B Records priced at $1 a record. And that’s where the really good stuff was! Man that really built my collection back then! I’m talking Don Blackman, Logg, Trilark, Sparkle, Hypertension, Sylvia Striplin, and every classic Salsoul 12″. I was smart at the time to just pick up anything that looked like it might be interesting or pressed in small numbers. It turned out the biggest prize was the Smith Whitaker and Company 12″ on Platinum Gold Records.

John M Gómez

Diggin’ Deep | John Gómez

John M Gómez

We welcome John Gómez into the Diggin’ Deep fold this week as he shares three tunes and the digging stories behind them that you are just going to want to read!

John first came to our attention when a tidily awesome jazz mix crossed our path sometime last year and it was clear from the off that this gentleman liked to pick a record or two. When we finally caught up with him it became apparent that his love of music went far deeper than jazz and in fact, his collection was rife with interesting finds.

John, born of both English and Spanish heritage, spent the early part of his life in the Spanish capital of Madrid (where he would also develop a deep seated fascination with Atlético de Madrid!) and it’s here where the story starts. Developing an almost immediate obsession with music as a child, the young Gómez initially embarked on learning to play an instrument, which saw him take up jazz trombone at school, and the interest later consolidated itself by way of Cuba, when he found himself living in country and studying Afro Cuban percussion. Finally exhausting his Cuban musical education, he travelled to Brazil and Indonesia to continue the study of percussion and soon the journey culminated with his current stay here in the UK, where a few years ago he completed a music-related PhD, “a kind of literary history of recorded sound”. By his own admission, the thesis, called ‘Consuming Sounds: Recorded Music, Literature, and Modernity’ was pretty nerdy, but it allowed him to look at how writers like Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner employed the changing culture of recorded music to interpret the experience of modernity.

As for records themselves, like many of his contemporaries of the same age, it was hip-hop that enticed him into the circle, although instead of the quest for samples, it was more a a question of the aesthetic itself – vinyl traditionally being an important and respected presence within the hip-hop community. From those early weekend forays to Madrid record shops as a teenager, including the now sadly defunct Discos Del Sur, which was located in a dark alley in Madrid full of prostitutes and junkies, through to his present-day digging in the streets of London, his search for killer LPs and twelves continues. His obsession went so deep that at the start he would buy records before he even had a turntable, taking his finds with him to babysitting jobs just so he could listen to them on the family’s turntable. In line with his fascination with hip-hop culture, the first record he ever bought was the now universally revered ‘Illmatic’ by New York God/MC NaS and he recounts the initial joy of taking the LP home, even though he couldn’t play it!

In terms of DJing, he’s active in the London scene, currently running a night devoted to sleazy disco called ‘C’est Moi’ alongside his colleague Horton Jupiter, and if you happen to be in Peckham this weekend, he’ll be behind the decks at the superb Montpellier Pub on Saturday, no doubt entertaining the post Record Store Day hordes. In his spare time, he still finds time to get literal about music (and food!), having held down a regular contributor’s role at the now dearly departed Shook Magazine and he’s currently penning various articles that will appear in the the music press later this year.

Take a listen to that aforementioned jazz mix here, and read on for a glimpse into the world of John’s digging exploits. Saving a copy of ‘Dusk Fire’ from the bin? Oh, OK then…

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#1: Dave Pike and his Orchestra “La Playa”

If we accept the notion that the collective sound of American music has a special place in every crate-digger’s heart, the first trip to the USA looking for records denotes a particular coming of age. I had been to the States a few times already, but never for such an extended period and with such a high proportion of that time being spent in record shops. I was in San Francisco preparing to go home after several weeks travelling around California. On my last day I visited all the must-go-to spots in the city, but it was the lethargic Jazz Quarter that carried the most enigmatic allure.

The Jazz Quarter felt like it was hidden from any commercial life so as to ensure that its imposing owner Tom Madden came into contact with as few customers – and, more importantly, their views on jazz – as possible. Tom was hostile and unpredictable: one moment he expressed resentment at having to deal with me, the next he gave the impression of looking to me for a listener to tell his dispirited stories of the Bay Area scene. Indeed, nostalgia is what he and the Jazz Quarter were all about. Tom sat buried in the detritus of his own life, covered by piles of records and yellowed newspaper cuttings of his heroes and friends: Horace Silver, Roland Kirk, Duke Ellington.

Tom had a languid manner, but when it came to talking about records he disliked, he was sharp and scathing. On the way to San Francisco I had picked up a few records that I hoped to sell or trade when I got back to Europe. However, by the time I arrived in San Francisco my budget was pretty slim so I showed them to Tom in case he was interested in any of the items. He gave me a blunt, “Why would I be interested in that crap?” His point was taken so I turned to the cluttered stacks.

It took me a couple of hours to get through all the records in the shop and as I was settling up, I noticed a discarded box in a corner, covered by a grubby sheet. I asked Tom what was inside, to which he replied: “Crap.” I uncovered the box to disclose a small but splendid collection of a dozen rare Latin records, including The Latin Jazz Quintet, Dave Pike’s ‘Manhattan Latin’, and Antonio Díaz Mena’s ‘Eso Es Latin Jazz’… Man! It was a neat little stash in lovely condition and I asked Tom how much he wanted for the lot. His reply baffled me: “I’ve told you I don’t want those records.” I quickly made sense of his error and said to him several times that these were his records, not the records I’d offered to him earlier, stating repeatedly that I wanted to buy them. Inexplicably, he grew agitated with my insistence, until he finally threatened: “If you don’t take those records with you, you ain’t takin’ any.” It was at this point that I relented, leaving the Jazz Quarter with a bag of free records and a feeling of confusion, as if the impetuous Tom had just put me on the spot. I couldn’t help thinking that it was he that was laughing and not me, for my ears were taking with them the crap that had no place in his own home.

#2: Don Rendell Ian Carr 5tet – “Dusk Fire”

Seated obscurely toward the back of a cabinet and on a side, some records seem conscious that they have rarely been noticed. In many ways, record spines are nothing much to look at. Tall and thin, they retain the anonymity that books so proudly give up, offering a visual representation of the owner’s musical life only to those who inspect closely. They can sit untouched for decades, invisible simply because people refuse to see them.

I was visiting family in Dereham, a sleepy town in Norfolk where my step-father’s mother lives. I have been to this town many times since I was a teenager, spending interminable summer holidays trying to overcome its quiet dullness. Yet several times Dereham has surprised me beyond what I was able to see in it. Around a decade ago I was editing an anthology of sound poetry, only to find that the pioneering sonic explorer Henri Chopin was living in this town with his daughter and family. I took the time to visit this impassioned poet in his home, and was astonished to find a clamorous retreat of French avant-garde experimentation tucked away amid Dereham’s somnolent streets.

This time, I was looking for amusement in the town’s charity shops, which I visited with my mother. On the walk back we talked about my interest in looking for records at every opportunity – not a new habit, by any means, but one that had never concerned her in more vibrant surroundings. She mentioned that there were a few records at home, which my step-father’s mother was looking to throw out as they had not been played in years. This perked my interest, of course, but I was resigned to the idea that I’d find nothing more than a bunch of Tommy Dorsey and Gilbert & Sullivan LPs.

When we got back I immediately looked for this unloved collection, which was housed in a boxy wooden cabinet whose prime purpose for years had been to support a large plant into the Norfolk sunlight. Inside its case were fifty or so records, but my eyes instantly caught a glimpse of the words ‘Dusk Fire’ printed on a gleaming spine. I did a double take, tilting my head downwards to my right shoulder to look again, completing my first reading with Don Rendell/Ian Carr. I pulled out the record and it was perfect, its beautiful electric blue label happy to see someone again after so much time in the dark. I showed my family the record and described its value – after all, simply taking it would have constituted some form of incestuous theft – but my beating heart was reassured when I was told that it was mine to keep, as I had all but intercepted its journey to the skip.

Like many others, I was seduced by this LP’s magic when its brooding title track appeared on Gilles Peterson’s Impressed series. Over the years I have dug up many of the records on those compilations, but I never expected to find a copy of this one. It is the kind of record that makes me dig and keeps me digging, and yet the way in which it came to me, more than anything else, made me question my own assumptions about rare records, the people who listened to them originally, and the people that look for them now. For years I never paid attention to that cabinet and even when it was laid open for me, I still held a certain reservation about what it could possibly hold. Context matters for rescuing music from anonymity, but how much? Finding this record felt like an experiment into perception and priorities, as well as a direct assessment of my own prejudices: how many times have my preconceptions of banal settings prevented beautiful music from rediscovering itself?

#3: Evans Pyramid “Never Gonna Leave You”

When people recall digging adventures, I am surprised by how little emphasis is frequently laid on the experience of digging itself. Yes, the search for records is fuelled by the idea of a prize, but digging tales can offer an eccentric guide to why music matters to us. They record a life lived outdoors, drawing a meandering map of possibilities and pitfalls in an era of online efficiency.

I was in New York just as the spring was coming into full bloom, tailing off a long stay in Washington, DC. It was a preternaturally bright day in the East Village, perfect for ruminating the neighbourhood’s vanishing record stores. I was in the short-lived Big City Records when a man came in with a box of records to offer to the store. The manager skimmed through them before telling him that they were low on space and didn’t need any. As the man left, I followed him outside and asked if I could take a look through the box. He said, “sure,” and continued, “I’ve got a bunch more in the back of my car if you want to see them too.”

The evening was warm, anticipating the heat of months ahead. As we walked to his car the man explained that he was down from Boston, and that he had a load of hip hop, modern soul, and disco records that he needed to get rid of. I gazed in delight as he opened his boot to reveal several boxes brimming with vinyl. I quickly picked out a few LPs that I had wanted for some time – Mad Skillz, Collins and Collins, Leo’s Sunshipp – but it was the labels of unknown indie twelves that conveyed the special lure of discovery. One, in particular stood out: a record with a golden wrinkly label by someone called Evans Pyramid. I was filled with wonder as I listened to ‘Never Gonna Leave You’ on my Vestax. It completely subverted the expectations that had been set up by the “FUNK” printed in large black letters on the label. It was unlike anything I had ever heard: more folk than funk, gentle and vulnerable, with a lambent beauty and trailing melancholy that seemed to reach out in the general direction of the ineffable.

‘Never Gonna Leave You’ must be one of my favourite records. The experience of listening to it for the first time as the sun was beginning to fade in the East Village gave me a momentary feeling of presentness. It is this feeling that allows me to hang on to all the elements around the record itself – the sounds of the city, the promise of summer in the air – in every subsequent listening. It is as evocative for me as a scrapbook crackling with faded photographs, transmitting a feeling that excludes everything around me and is independent of memory, time, and space.

The Jazz Kid

Diggin’ Deep | The Jazz Kid

The Jazz Kid

We head to Belgium this week to catch up with our friend Lander AKA The Jazz Kid for our next set of Diggin’ Deep stories. An avid record fanatic and accomplished DJ, Lander has bulit up a formidable collection over the years, a feat you can study by checking out his monthly mix series.

Like many of his contemporaries, Lander caught the record habit through his early love of hip-hop and the exploration of the samples that were often contained within. Gradually digging deeper to find the records with that elusive break or snippet, he soon found himself delving into the vast sea of 60s and 70s soul, funk, Latin and during the subsequent years, jazz, a genre that would soon become an all encompassing hobby for the young collector. He started by unearthing bits and pieces at home, his mother’s and father’s record collection proving to be a key early source of choice cuts at the start, before moving onto the various shops and flea markets of the surrounding area, where he would discover Miles Davis’ ‘Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud’, the cult soundtrack to the Nouvelle Vague masterpiece of the same name, and classic dates from American jazz masters Cannonball Adderley and Blue Mitchell. As he delved further into music history, it soon became clear there were also plenty of home country heroes to uncover, names like Marc Moulin and Open Sky Unit, and soon records from Belgium’s musical elite soon found themselves sitting side by side with their American counterparts on Lander’s shelves.

His comprehensive knowledge and love of music soon landed him his own jazz show on the local community station Radio Scorpio, and since then, he has partnered with Laid Back Radio, where he has hosted the ‘Snap Your Fingers’ radio show, as well as penning several in-depth articles about European jazz. One of Belgium’s more established DJs on the jazz, funk and soul circuit, Lander has played records across the country in assorted venues, as well as guesting at both Brussels’ annual Jazz Marathon and his hometown Leuven Jazz festival (alongside the UK’s Nat Birchall and Francis Gooding), and even further afield at The Jazz Meet here in London (twice).

When we asked Lander for three tunes and the digging stories behind them, we knew he would have on or two up his sleeve. He didn’t disappoint! Read on to learn about flea market finds, a rare box of library records and simply being in the right place at the right time…

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#1: Nico Gomez & His Afro Percussion Inc. “Ritual”

When I first started looking for old records, I was in my teens and I had hardly any money to spend. So at that time I avoided record stores and did most of my digging at flea markets and charity shops. I also realized that I shouldn’t be hoping to find rare US funk or jazz records over here in Belgium, but rather look for great music on unusual or unknown records. That’s why I started searching for good Belgian funk and jazz records, because I figured they were easier to find than foreign stuff. So about ten years ago, I was at a flea market and had already spent most of my small budget on a few late 70s James Brown records, when I was browsing through a few boxes of records priced at 2 euros each, when I pulled out an original copy of Nico Gomez & His Afro Percussion Inc. It was one of the first records I had discovered when researching Belgian music, and it was a holy grail among collectors of European rare groove. I clearly recall the feeling that my heart skipped a beat when I pulled that record out and it’s basically that feeling that still keeps me hunting for records after all these years.

#2: Alan Parker “That’s What Friends Are For”

On a Saturday two years ago, I was planning to go to a small record fair in the afternoon when I recalled that there was a small flea market going on that day. I doubted to go, as it was a small flea market and it was already 10am, so chances were slim that I was actually going to find something. But then I remembered a story that my friend had told me: a friend of his had come across a box of library records at said flea market the year before, but had only bought a handful of them because he didn’t know any of the records… So I decided to go, hoping for that impossibly tiny chance that that same seller would be there and that those library records hadn’t sold in the last year. I arrived and started looking around when I saw a box with records that had a lot of the same colored spines… I could just sense that it was that box with library records and my feeling proved to be right when I started browsing: a lot of green cover KPMs, Brutons, Chappells, a few Belgian things like the RKM libraries and a few Selection titles, and of course, a dozen or so Themes records, including many great titles by the likes of Alan Parker, Alan Hawkshaw, Brian Bennett and many more. I offered the seller a price for the entire box of approximately 100 titles (the original price was 2 euros per piece) and walked away with it, only then realizing that it was the first time I had gone to a flea market by bike and thus had to walk a few kilometers home, trying to prevent that big box from falling off the back of my bike…

#3: Sonny Rollins “Moritat”

I used to take the train to the city of Antwerp regularly to visit the now unfortunately defunct Record Collector store. The Record Collector was a notorious store, of which every digger has one or more great stories of the crazy things they found there (in my case, to name only three from the top of my head: Sahib Shihab “Companionship”, Quartetto Di Lucca “S/T” and Nathan Davis “Rules Of Freedom”. The latter was the most expensive, priced at 20 euros (!)). Now, a few years back I made a trip to Antwerp, but it was one of those rare occasions on which I hadn’t found anything at Record Collector, so I hit up a few other spots, but they didn’t turn up much either. At the last spot, I bought one cheap jazz record and was already grieving that I hadn’t found anything, when the shop owner asked: “So, you are looking for old jazz records? I have a stack that has just come in, do you want to take a look?” He put 20 or so records on the counter and I couldn’t believe my eyes: amongst some Count Basie records were a few original Savoy records, an original Jazz Messengers on Blue Note, a handful of original early Prestige titles like Donald Byrd & Art Farmer “2 Trumpets”, Frank Foster “Wail, Frank Wail”, Sonny Rollins “Sonny Rollins Plus Four” and also, the cherry on top: a beautiful copy of Sonny Rollins “Saxophone Collossus”. I made a choice of about 12 records, and asked the seller to price them, honestly thinking they would be way out of my league… Well, I don’t remember all the prices, but I do remember that I walked out with the entire stack of records and a big smile on my face.

Breakplus

Diggin’ Deep | Breakplus

Breakplus digging in Ghana

This week our ongoing exploration of vinyl culture and collecting takes in its first international guest (by way of London Town) as we sit down with Swiss DJ / producer Breakplus. Now we’ve known about this cat for a while, a man about town his extensive knowledge of breaks and samples is flawless, and with it comes a compulsive record habit which easily throws up the odd story or two, as we will all soon learn.

Breakplus caught the record bug early while still living in Switzerland and namely thanks to what has now become known as the golden era of hip hop. Seeking out those long forgotten records that were used as the basis for many a 90s rap tune meant that he was soon digging in all types of crates and with it, exposing himself to a glut of artists, bands and genres. As time progressed he amassed a sizeable enough collection to embark on a career as a DJ in his homeland and by the year 2000, with an understanding of what makes listeners tick, he picked up his MPC 2000XL and started learning the ins and outs of music production.

He started hosting a radio show on the pioneering Swiss Internet radio station www.basic.ch in 2001, which meant the search for new and old sounds never ceased, and over seven years and close to 100 hours of mixes his audience was served up all manner of music that he would find on his travels. Soul and hip hop would rub shoulders with the more progressive sounds of drum and bass and broken beat, while the clear fascination for the past led to Breakplus excavating forgotten gems in the genres of funk, disco, library, jazz, rock, prog and Afro sounds. In other words he was covering the lot.

As his DJing and production ethic took off in his native Switzerland (even going as far as finding himself on the bill at the Montreux Jazz Festival, warming up for J Dilla, Madlib, Roots Manuva and Ty), a move to London beckoned and there he hooked up with Mr. Beatnick and put out a release under the moniker of Thieves Of Time. Alongside the record collecting and DJing, he continues the production work, collaborating on a host of projects as well as finishing up his own solo material.

So what about those digging exploits? A man who is always on the search for a cheeky sample or two must have a few right? Read on to find out what goes down in the life of our Swiss friend when he’s out looking for records…

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#1: You & The Explosion Band “Theme From Lupin III”

I was in Geneva to visit some family there, and on Saturday afternoon I get a phone call from an unknown number. Turns out it’s Danny Krivit. My brother is friends with him and Danny had a gig in Geneva on Saturday evening.

But that’s not the reason for his call. He informs me that there is a record fair on Sunday and he wants me to take him there. He’s like: “it starts at 10am, so pick me up at my hotel at 8am”. Geneva’s not that big, and the record fair not that far from his hotel. The guy has over 50,000 records, been digging all over the world for so many years, plus he will be deejaying all night, but he has to get to the record fair before anyone else! You gotta admire his dedication. I mean I am serious about records, but I wouldn’t get up that early on a Sunday for that small a record fair. I managed to negotiate a pick up at 8:30am to which he reluctantly agrees.

The next morning I get to his hotel all red-eyed and still sleepy but Mr. Krivit is all fresh and ready to go. We get to the place before 9am. The vendors are far from all there yet and the ones who are, are still setting up their stalls. We try to get in but the attendant at the entrance is like “No no no. you have to wait until 10”. I’m a bit embarrassed at that stage, thinking in my head, “Dude, that’s Danny Krivit you’re talking to!”. Fortunately enough, I knew one of stall holders and he manages to get us in. We’re basically there before everyone else.

There wasn’t mad quality there, but I did pick up a few interesting Jazz LPs at decent prices, such as that Don Ellis Star Wars Theme record, and the Volker Kriegel double LP “Inside: Missing Link” on MPS. The best piece I got, although a bit pricey, was the first in the series of Lupin the Third Japanese Manga Soundtracks. With obi strip.

But to be honest, I was a bit tired and quickly done. I see my 70 year old Jazz Trumpeter friend (DJ C, we’d had a few dj gigs together playing some big band jazz) that I hadn’t hung out with since moving to London so we sit down to have a tea and a chat. But Danny is still going. The guy didn’t stop. He literally went through all the boxes of every stall! So yeah I’m a record nerd, but this guy is on another level. To have that kind of hunger after all these years and still making sure not to miss out on anything is truly astonishing.

#2: Ray Barretto “Lucretia The Cat”

This second, shorter story takes us back to Geneva. On the occasion of the Fetes de la Musique, on the 21st of June 2013, the state of Geneva’s discotheques (where you used to be able to borrow records as you do books in a Library) were selling off their stock. It’s funny because I initially took this trip to Geneva to present my two month old daughter to my family, and my wife swears I chose the dates on purpose to go and dig, when I fact I had no idea that this would go down as I bought the plane tickets! Anyway, the day came, and the event was supposed to start at 6pm. The way they did it is that they arranged an enclosure on a square closed to the traffic and arranged boxes of records there, by sections. As in your traditional record store, you had rows of boxes at table height, and other rows beneath on the floor.

Having learnt my lesson from Danny Krivit, I got there at 5pm to make sure to get an early start if possible. I could see all the usual digging suspects of the Geneva region including Mauro Bozzi of Stigmate Records fame, Cyril Martin of Holywax Records and many other guys. Like my wife, they all thought I came just for this! It’s true that it was something not to miss when all the records were being sold indiscriminately at 2 Swiss Francs a pop (about 1.35 GBP). All of us obviously tried to get in early but this being the state of Geneva they were having none of it.

Even worse, they announced that the start time wasn’t 6 anymore, but 7, because they wanted to wait for some official speech to be made first??!!?? We were all pissed off but undeterred. As time passed more and more people came and the crowd grew to the hundreds. As a true test of our diggers credentials, we had to wait in the searing June sun, all hemmed in together in the enclosure’s entrance, pressed like sardines. I think the guys working the security at this record sale started getting worried about the numbers and decided to let everybody in at around 6:40pm. It was an absolute stampede once they finally opened the gates, people all running towards the mystery boxes, nobody having a clue what would be in there. I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t civilised at all! At some point I was digging in one of the floor boxes, and I couldn’t get back up because I had three bodies on top of me going for the upper level boxes. People were literally falling over one another. Others were simply grabbing entire boxes for themselves.

I did find some really nice pieces though, like most of the Blood Sweat and Tears LPs, some Ray Barettos, the whole Albert Ayler discography. Also some weird instrument library LPs, Japanese Koto drums, Jew’s Harp and stuff. Not everything I got is great, but at that price you take chances. See a short TV report of the event here.

It was definitely mad but great to see people still get so enthusiastic for vinyl!

#3: Konadu’s Guitar Band “Medley”

I went to Ghana in March 2011 first of all for a bit of sun and some relaxing beach holidays. However, the real incentive was to be at the first edition of the Asabaako music festival, created and organised by friends of mine who had moved to Ghana specifically for that purpose. During my two weeks there I asked literally everybody about where I could find records but nobody had a clue. The general response was that you can’t really find records in Ghana anymore. At that point I was resigned to buying tapes instead, thinking I’ll at least have something to listen to in the car when back home (yes, I had only had a tape deck in the car back then, and I loved it, great sound).

So we’re in Accra, on the last day of our holidays, a Sunday, and we’ve got to catch the plane at 10pm that evening. “We” being myself and Guynamite who was on that trip with me. He wants to buy some souvenirs for his friends, I just want some tapes. We jump in a cab and ask the driver to take us to the arts and crafts market. Whilst on the way I start asking him where we can get some tapes, and the guy replies: “I know a place, but it’s closed on Sunday”. At that point I feel truly doomed, thinking I will come back to London empty handed. For the hundredth’s time I hazard the same question: “Do you know where to find records by any chance?”. The guy is a bit puzzled, “records??”. I’m like: “yeah records. You know, vinyl? Like CDs but bigger?”. So he’s like, “Ahhhh!! Plates! You lookin for plates! Ok… Ok..” (to be read with pidgin English accent).

As he’s driving he starts making phone calls on his mobile. My mood is perking up. At that stage we’ve got no idea where we’re going anymore. The plan of going to the arts and crafts market is suddenly taking a back seat. Sorry Guynamite! (he wasn’t that bothered to be honest, he’s a nice guy and a lover of music, especially African grooves too). So we’re driving around not knowing where we’re going or even what’s going on, and we end up picking up a guy who gets in the cab with us. He’s giving directions to the cabbie. But we only end up picking up another guy. That’s the thing in Ghana. When you want directions, you get told: “Walk in that direction for a little while, and then ask somebody else”. It’s actually a great system!

Anyway, we end up in a neighbourhood where we have to continue on foot, because the little dirt paths are too narrow for a car to drive on. At that stage we’re with our cabbie, who’s with his friend, who’s with a couple of guys, who take us to some Rasta’s house. If we hadn’t experienced how friendly and honest Ghanaians are we might have started to get a little bit tense and worried! So we get to that tiny little shack in the middle of a shanty town, the Rasta’s home. He invites us in (there’s really only enough room for his bed and two people to stand up), and behind the door and everywhere there is space are records! Like thousands of them, in dirt, stacked flat on the floor!

At this stage I’d like to point out that prior to this trip I didn’t know much or anything at all about Ghanaian music. I never bought or even listened to these Ghana Sounds compilations because I just don’t really buy comps. I don’t like to research stuff on the internet. I started digging way before the internet had any relevance in that department and to me it sort of kills the magic. For me the whole fun is discovering new stuff while digging. Using my nose. Sniffing those rare grooves. Looking at covers and trying to find which records will be funky. Visually uncovering those breaks.

I start to sift through those piles of records not knowing at all what to pick, trying to let my instincts guide me. To be fair though, it was mainly a case of picking up the records that were in a better condition because anybody who’s been digging in tropical places will tell you it’s extremely hard to find records in good nick. Here I am, in a dirty (no offence) little hut in Accra, sweating like a pig, breathing dust, when a live scorpion pops out of a record!! This has to go down as my most dangerous digging trip. I thought maybe it was the harmless type but when I told my new Rasta friend who was waiting outside, he seemed quite worried. I can tell you I was being extremely careful after that when sifting through the rest of the vinyl!

I picked up about 60 records because I couldn’t really take more with me. I found some real gems in there, not only some of the best Highlife, like C.K . Mann, including his famous Funky Highlife LP, the K Frimpong and His Cubano Fiestas Album, some incredible stuff from Alex Konadu, but also some Nigerian Juju Funk and Disco, some music from Zaire, Cameroon and Ivory Coast.

I took a long time to clean those records and I ended up putting some of the best bits on my Breakplus Digs Ghana mix. The mix was initially 2h45 minutes long, but I edited it down to 1:45 minutes to make it a bit more palatable. It’s funny because during my trip there all that I could hear everywhere was this auto-tune hip life stuff, but it’s only when I came back home that I could truly immerse myself in what I consider to be Ghana’s real legacy and contribution to the world of music. I finally had the music to go with the images that filled my head after this wonderful trip.

We couldn’t find a YouTube video of the said track, so instead stream the full Breakplus Digs Ghana mix tape below. We’re reliably informed it appears around the 1:28:40 mark!

Breakplus Digs Ghana by Boglewaltz on Mixcloud