I don’t remember if this club night had a name! It was Hewan Clarke and Colin Curtis playing jazz-dance and soul, and when I discovered the night in 1985, it had already been running for a couple of years. Berlin was a small basement club, at 38 King Street West, Manchester M3 2WZ, tucked in just behind Kendals (House of Fraser) off Deansgate.
I went there with my friend Angela to hear the jazz-dance music played early on… and to see the amazing jazz dancing; most of the dancers were men dancing solo, freestyle. The Jazz Defektors danced there (pictured above) along with Foot Patrol, Trafford, Danny Henry and Suzanne Fenby amongst others.
To get some idea of their style, here are The Jazz Defektors opening a fashion show in Japan:
Sadly, I can’t find much film footage of the original Jazz Defektor dancers, as opposed to the band which The Jazz Defektors later became (which I was less keen on.)
Many of the jazz/jazz-latin tracks which were played at The Berlin in the ’80s subsequently turned up on the Street Sounds Jazz Juice compilations, for instance:
Gilberto Gil – Maracatu Atomico
I loved the following track and I pestered the DJs for the name of it; Colin Curtis informed me impatiently that I would never find a copy because it was so rare. Infact, I was able to buy it soon after, when Streetsounds released it on Jazz Juice 7 in 1988:
Charles Earland – Murilley
The music changed abruptly around 11.30pm/midnight to slow soul music, and the contrast between the jazz-dance and the soul didn’t work for me. The sudden slow-down in tempo made the soul seem super-slow, like when you leave the motorway, and for a while 30 mph feels more like 10.
Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye was one of the few tracks I recognised and liked during the second part of the night; this gives some indication of the general tempo. So it was an uncomfortable choice: stay and listen to slow music, or leave early and get the bus home?
One night when me and my friend stayed, we got talking to some lads who were a bit younger than us. They were laughing at me trying to dance in steel-toe-capped Doc Martens (and who can blame them.) They introduced themselves as The Ruthless Rap Assassins which I have always remembered because it was such a great name. Kermit and his friend (Derrick?) gave us a lift back to Whalley Range in their nackered old car which had big holes in the floor. We thought they were like the Ant Hill Mob in the Wacky Races:
I never heard any of the Ruthless Rap Assassins’ tracks in the following years… the next time I saw Kermit he was in Black Grape and I only recognised him because of his name! If only we’d had the internet and YouTube in those days; it would have been much easier to stay informed about interesting people.
Right at the end of the night, Colin Curtis would play Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ and Isley Brothers’ ‘Harvest For The World’ – this was before The Christians covered it and ruined it for everyone.
Isley Brothers – Harvest For The World (1976)
I was only reminded of this when I went to a revival night at BOTW in 2011. Hearing those songs unexpectedly transported me right back to being in The Berlin in the mid-80s, and I suddenly felt quite emotional – I caught a fleeting glimpse of my old excitement at knowing that there are hundreds of amazing records out there just waiting to be discovered!
For more Old School Jazz Dance look up IDJ, Brothers in Jazz (London) and The Floor Technicians (Bristol) on YouTube. I saw IDJ (I Dance Jazz) in 1987 when they toured with the saxophonist Steve Williamson. Their style combined the grace of the Jazz Defektors with the athletic footwork of Foot Patrol.