Monday, April 24, 2017

30 Years of House Music – Blaze

BlazeAs a die hard Soul Music lover, I felt it quite natural to be stumbling upon the magnetism I happened to find on seminal tunes such as Ten City‘s ‘Devotion’, Ce Ce Rogers‘s ‘Someday’, Mister Fingers‘s ‘Closer’, Lil’ Louis‘s ‘I Called U’, but also Underground Solution‘s ‘Luv Dancin”, Armold Jarvis‘s ‘Take Some Time Out’, Paul Simpson feat. Adeva‘s ‘Musical Freedom’, and many others in a genre that one would rate either as Deep House, either as Jersey Sound or Garage in the second half of the 80’s. This being how I managed to hear of Blaze for the very first time with gems such as Phase II‘s ‘Reachin” and ‘Can’t Win For Loosin’ which they produced, eventually under their own guise for the latter. From then, this would be the start of a long brotherhood relationship between us that found a further development with the first in a series of regular interviews back in 1997 followed by countless meetings from then, in NYC, Miami or Paris…

“We’re both hailing from Newark, NJ”, explained to me Josh Milan, speaking of Kevin (Hedge) and him, although Blaze started as a threesome along with Chris Herbert. “Our respective backgrounds are different though. I’ve learnt a lot from the Church, with all the members of my family playing at least one instrument. Meanwhile Kevin got into music via his aunt, who was an avid record collector, in all genres, which has been of a big help!” Why Blaze? “A sort of tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire”, said Kevin. “I’ve been a fan of them forever, and I always wanted to do something in a comparable spirit. A music that would be bright, real songs with the help of real instrumentists. I started spinning way before the arrival of House Music. We would talk about Club Music back then, produced by people like Larry Levan or Boyd Jarvis, back in the days of labels such as West End, Prelude and SAM…”
“To me Blaze symbolizes the idea of wisdom”, pursued Kevin. “Just like the fire being associated to the light, without which wisdom wouldn’t exist. In addition to it, whenever the fire is burning, it’s supposed to bring everything its consumes back to a natural state…”
“We met like back in Prehistory”, said Josh. “You might remember Chris (Herbert) who was for some time the singer of the group. I met him back in 1985 in a church. I was playing organ and he was singing in choirs. He had a good friend (Kevin) who happened to be a DJ. Kevin had like Larry Levan under his skin. This was like an obsession to him. He would have done everything to be reincarnated as Larry! Larry back then was remixing everything people wanted. He therefore had to become himself a remixer. That’s how he suggested us to do our own songs so that he could remix them. We’ve invested in a bit of material and that’s how the whole got started…”

With Blaze eventually releasing their first album – ’25 Years Later’ – on Motown, one could think back then of a greater recognition to come… “Nothing’s been done to have this album given the right exposure”, said Josh. “This has really saddened us. It wasn’t a matter of music, but rather of release date at a time when the label had internal problems. We eventually thought about givin’ it up for some time, but the reactions we’ve received from our fans have pushed us to make it forward.” seeing Blaze coming up with an instantly identifiable sound along with time…
“We did everything together back in the early days”, explained Josh. “Until the moment we felt like one of us had to deal with the business side of the things, which Kevin managed to do, meanwhile I got more and more dealing on my own with the studio thing, just like L.A. & Babyface or Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis happened to also do, as a matter of fact…”
Another common point with Jam & Lewis was certainly their obsessional search for musicality as optimal mastering… “We had such an incredible time back in the heyday of the Jersey Sound. It was so pure, although we never got rich from it. As a matter of fact, we just were innocent. We were putting out what we thought to be quality music, but we never managed to make ourselves of decent way of living from it.
We were hiring musicians, but this never really got accepted, as away from the trends, even though our music was nothing but another form of Soul, Black and spiritual, although tailored for the floors.”
, agreeing with François Kevorkian about the fact that more and more tunes sounded like looped intros… “Tons of tunes simply lead to nowhere. They sort of work on the dancefloors, but that’s just about it. It’s coming from the fact that the DJ’s are first and foremost obsessed by the mix, which one can understand as applied to the clubs, but that’s a way different story elsewhere, speaking of which the results just speak for themselves…
The cut which we really got money from happened to be Delacy’s ‘Hideway’, with a remix courtesy of Deep Dish!”

The end of the last decade saw Kevin and Josh parting ways, with Hedge teaming up with Louie Vega as a resident of the weekly Roots NYC nighter, and Milan launching his own label, Honeycomb Music back in 2010, although also collaborating with Louie Vega as a member of Elements Of Life

Chosen few
Blaze – 25 Years Later (Motown)
Blaze – Basic Blaze (Slip’N’Slide)
Blaze Production Presents James Toney Jr. Project – Natural Blaze (Life Line Records)
Blaze – Spiritually Speaking (Slip’N’Slide)
Blaze Presents Underground Dance Artists United For Life – Keep Hope Alive (King Street)

In the series…
30 Years Of House Music (Pt. 10) – Danny Tenaglia

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2 Comments on 30 Years of House Music – Blaze

  1. Whenever I share this Blaze classic on Facebook , the response is electric . Wonderful write up Frédéric . I am thrilled to keep up with Josh and Kevin. I feel KH, is one of the most outstanding , yet under-rated NYC/NJ area djs out there . On Roots NYC , he and Louie Vega represent every Friday evening . Josh just pumps out cutting edge Soulful vocals via Honeycomb Music. Love these guys.☺?????????

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