Brazil and Breeze were similar small independent club nights, begun in 1988. They were small outcrops of dance-music-diversity, poking up through the tidal wave of house. (Tsunamis didn’t exist in the 1980s as I recall.)
Both nights played jazz-dance, although Brazil championed samba and latin. A favourite song from the night was ‘Celebration Suite’ by Airto Moreira, which appeared on the first Streetsounds Jazz Juice album and is batucada percussion marching music… not really jazz.
One of the DJs, Trafford, danced with batucada band Inner Sense Percussion (they played in town on Saturdays outside M&S for years). He was convinced that this type of music could work in clubs… and there are strong parallels between house and batucada/carnival music. Both are hypnotic, repetitive, insistent, bacchanalian… and yet liable to become boring if not combined astutely with other music. Which is where the DJ’s influence is so crucial.
Why did I never grasp that nettle?
My brother was DJing the Brazil nights with Trafford, but for some reason, I was quite happy pottering around behind the scenes, cobbling together flyers, discussing logistics, finding potential tunes, dragging all my friends along to support the nights, and generally taking a back seat. Why was that?
I suppose I just like dancing too much. DJing instead of dancing is not appealing. But being forced to suffer a dull, misguided or ego-maniacal DJ isn’t great either.
With today’s technology there should be no barrier to being a dancing DJ. I wonder could that work? (Is it happening already?) Or would the result be a headless beast? Blundering? Does there actually have to be somebody standing in an elevated position, surveying the crowd, silently mocking ill-advised dance moves, rebuffing requests, soaking up the pressure, taking the glory, or the blame?
A vivid memory of Brazil is the night we booked the New Ardri in Hulme and only a handful of our friends came. We were shocked because we’d done OK in smaller venues up until then. The management pulled a folding wall across half the club to make it smaller, so we weren’t so lost in the space. It was quite a nifty device for such an ancient looking building!
The Man Alive Club on Grosvenor Street worked best of the various clubs we tried. I still remember when Danny Henry did a head-spin to Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansion on the dancefloor there, and I was amazed and horrified in equal measure. He was the best club dancer I’d ever seen in my life; he still dances now, busking in town.