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Label Watch: Giant Step

Maurice Bernstein and Jonathan Rudnick

For better and for worse, we seem to be in the middle of a jazz boom. The better: a plethora of labels major and independent, a surplus of first-class, multi-disciplined musicians, expanding markets (cable/online). The worse: stylistic sameness, label conservatism, genre narrowness. With everybody goin’ for that niche demo, things just ain’t what they used to be like back in the Impulse-Atlantic-Prestige day.

Maurice Bernstein, head of N.Y.C.-based Giant Step records and his partner-in-vibe Jonathan Rudnick (he runs Groove Academy, the label’s club promotions/concert events wing) are students of the Old School-they’re about the music first. When the two expatriates (Bernstein is from the UK, Rudnick is from South Africa) joined forces in 1990, they were just music lovers who wanted to give something back to the creators. “Groove Academy was the mothership that started it all out to garner respect for funk and funk attitudes,” recalls Rudnick. “The stars of the ’70s, although they were highly sampled, were not getting the recognition, (they) weren’t being presented in a live forum. So, we started off with Maceo (Parker), Bootsy, George Clinton, the Ohio Players and that was the Groove Academy…the kind of school-of-the-streets idea. Out of that sprang the jazz-oriented street wing, Giant Step. Giant Step being a moveable club environment and then just sort of an environment in general wherever it lands. We wanted to create a like-minded network not just in America, but around the world.”

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