Guiding lights of the late ’80s/early ’90s acid jazz scene in Britain, The Brand New Heavies throw their weight around this week with a string of dates taking them through Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. They are in Japan to promote “We Won’t Stop,” their latest album, released earlier this year — a polished selection of funky U.K. soul. Ostensibly a three-piece production crew, they will be joined by singers Nicole Russo and Hazel Fernandes as part of the nine-member Heavies live band.
A shared love, among old school friends, for ’70s soul and funk (a la James Brown, The Meters, etc.) brought The Brand New Heavies together in 1985. For Jan Kincaid, Andrew Levy and Simon Bartholomew, from the London suburb of Ealing, it was a natural progression from addictive rare-record collecting to producing their own material, tried and tested in the rare-groove club scene they were immersed in.
Pioneering independent label Acid Jazz gave the band its break with the release, in 1990, of their first self-titled album. Full of strong grooves played by real musicians, it bucked the trend of technology-inspired acid house/techno and appealed to a dedicated set of style-conscious British youth. However, singles like “Never Stop” and “Dream on Dreamer” soon took them from cult status to mainstream success in Britain, and subsequently the United States.
Stateside shows introduced their music to hip-hop heads who couldn’t believe this bunch of Brits was bringing such fat and funky grooves back to their country of birth, where they were being sampled but rarely played live.
Check for yourself how they pull it off this time.
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