Back in the mists of time there was a UK jazz dance scene that had a serious underground presence. If you read the style press from the mid-1980s you might infer that this was the biggest pop cultural style in the country, but it was a little more underground than that. Clubs such as the Jazz Room at the Wag Club were discovering some amazing records and compilations such as Paul Murphy’s “Jazz Club” series or Gilles Peterson’s “Jazz Juice” were selling serious numbers. If Murphy was the founding father of UK jazz dance, Peterson was of the next generation to take it world-wide.
When Ace Records in the UK set up a licensing deal with Fantasy Records in Berkeley, Ca, the owners of the Riverside, Milestone, Prestige jazz catalogues, Gilles Peterson and Baz Fe Jazz were recruited to create a new label to exploit this oh so deep jazz catalogue. Despite what has been said it is no coincidence that the label’s initials were the same as Baz & Gilles but another name – Beat Goes Public – was invented to prevent the blushes and so started BGP.
BGP issued some fantastic jazz funk and soul jazz releases that mirrored the pre-occupations of the then current jazz scene, creating several classics such as Willis Jackson’s Nuther'n Like Thuther'n’’ and Billy Hawks’ ‘(Oh Baby) I Believe I'm Losing You’ (as well as a superb single by Snowboy and the Latin Section). At this point the club scene was hit by the arrival of Acid House as an almighty force. In an attempt to hold onto an audience (or perhaps just as an in-joke with those who remained) Gilles and his DJ partner Chris Bangs invented the term acid jazz. It was perfect for their blend of funky instrumentals with odd guitar solos, and over the years it created worldwide stars from the acts that sprung up from the clubs that played the music. A series of compilation albums that focused on this genre, and some more showcasing specific acts, such as Funk Inc, followed to create something of a golden era for BGP.
When Gilles and Baz left BGP in fairly quick succession in the early 90s, their place was taken by Russ Dewbury, the founder of the Brighton Jazz Bops,. This South Coast institution filled the 2000 capacity Top Rank Suite in Brighton with the live sounds of Johnny Lytle, Pucho or Terry Callier, all acts that happily found homes on BGP and gave us further classic releases. Russ’s final choice was to put the luscious sounds of the Rotary Connection on the label; one of BGP’s all-time best sellers and still in catalogue after 15 years.
At this exciting point I joined the ship. While the jazz scene was stagnating, a vibrant funk scene had sprung up. A new world of collectors were looking for pointers, after they had found their way to old funk and jazz through the samples used in hip hop records. We had great success with the Super Funk and Super Breaks series and with some label-specific comps that looked at the funk output of the Stax, King and Westbound labels. We have also been lucky enough to issue compilations of the early productions of James Brown and the early career of Georgie Fame. We have also dipped our toes into the world of DJ-led compilations with some CDs made in collaboration with DJ Andy Smith. More are likely to follow.
We are always on the look out for other labels to work our magic on. As we reach our 25th birthday we are just signing a deal with the Flying Dutchman label: Bob Thiele’s label from the early 70s that launched the careers of Gil Scott-Heron, Leon Thomas and Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as important records by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and others. We are really looking forward to getting our teeth into that one.