Si Cheeba – The Bright As The Sun Interview

7 June 2022

When I asked my fellow Jazz Hobblers who they would like to have as a guest on the 1 Year Anniversary of our ‘Bright As The Sun – Jazz Excursions On 45’ show this Sunday 12 June 2022, Si Cheeba’s name kept coming up, so we asked him if he would join us and he agreed!!

Let’s find out why…

Firstly, tell us about yourself as a Dj and Collector of Jazz 45s, how long have you been playing and collecting this particular genre (we know Jazz is as deep as the sea!), what was the first 45 you bought in this genre? Do you still have it and play it?

I first got into the “jazz thing” in mid 1980s – as a schoolboy finding my identity in the “mod scene” in the Northwest of England – with clothes and music.  

As I read up about the whole youth cult in various book and fanzines, I soon realised it had it’s roots in modern jazz – hence the original term of “modernists” for those that preferred the sharp black contemporary style of late 1950s  – instead of the scruffy, backwards looking culture of the “Trad jazz” fans. 

Even at 15/16 years old there was groups of us putting on little “clubs” in rooms above pubs and at social clubs -etc.  From Bolton and Manchester to Bury and Blackpool and down to Stockport or over in Leeds – or down South for weekenders and all-nighters We broke away from that “mod revival” music of bands like Jam and Secret Affair and the same old Who records with a bit of Motown and Northern Soul.  The scene across the country was splitting with those who wanted to dig deeper into the original “purist” notion of what “mod culture” meant with the 1960s black music side of early Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Ska and into the Jazz orientated stuff.

It was literally anyone that had some records would play one or two at first – or more if they had them – which eventually got them onto the path of “being a DJ”.   The focus on jazz records was 100% on dancefloor feedback with that early-to mid 1960s club sound of piano and Hammond organ instrumentals – from the likes of Ramsey Lewis and Jimmy Smith – along with RnB and Soul instrumentals  – which could have counted as jazz. 

Probably the first original “Jazz 45” I bought was by hammond organist Jimmy McGriff 45 on US Sue Records – called “Kiko”  – which was from a place called “Yanks” in Manchester where they had a kind of basement warehouse of stock copies of Soul, Jazz and RnB 45s.  You would browse the latest photocopied list of stock and then go to the counter with selections.  The ladies who worked there would go into the back and bring you out your choices – it was a bizarre place.

It’s never been “just jazz” – but the deeper I got into the “jazz club scene” in late 80s I realised that it covered so many styles – from funk and folk – to rock and psyche – as well as the worldwide music – as long as it had that beat and groove it got championed by the forward thinking DJs – it was more open minded than the narrow “mod scene” – and led me into many musical paths in the decades that followed. 

You had the fast paced – percussion heavy  stuff for the hard core jazz dancers – through to the funky grooves and mid paced vocals and Bossa styles for the rest.

But with our past connections to the soul scene it became the standard for us to get the 45s of the tracks where possible –  as it was usual practice to just carry round a box of 45s to gigs – rather than a big 12” boxes  – although we occasionally would have a small plastic bag of LPs for tracks which were not on 45.

Whereas the jazz club scene at the time was very much more LP orientated (in a similar way – most hip hop DJs preferred the 12” format then)

We know you’ve been djing professionally for over 30 years and have played many well known club nights and festivals in the UK in that period, what is it about djing that keeps the flame burning for you and pushing the genres you love, particularly jazz.

It’s always been semi pro – alongside my day job – so in some ways it was a welcome distraction from work and I wasn’t having to DJ for a living, so it has never really felt like a chore.  Obviously you have to act professionally in all aspects but it was never about the money (if there ever was any!)  It was always simply the passion for music at the end of day.

Just to see people appreciate what is still quite a “specialist / underground” genre with an open mind is a great buzz – in many places and settings.  And its amazing to see DJs and music lovers who are were trailblazers, generation before me, that are still involved in playing, DJing and putting out records. 

When you see the younger generation appreciating it can bring goosebumps. 

I remember DJing at South London Soul Train a while back – an amazing club with a following of a crowd mostly in their late teens and twenties. 

It was just early doors so I put on some long jazzy LP tracks – and kids were walking in and making moves on the dance floor straight away to 8 minute tracks from Ivan Boogaloo Joe Jones and Charles Earland !!

As with all things, but particularly with music, my ethos is “The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know” – records and artists from the last 60 years are still being unearthed and are just as valid as “brand new” records to me and I still get the same buzz as when I heard classics like SideWinder and Watermelon Man for first time.

Tell us a little about your Mixcloud channel.

My Mixcloud posts reflect my broad taste in musical styles – predominantly from 60s and 70s that has always been a “retro collecting” passion – but also into what was the “contemporary era” for me in the late 1980s and 1990s when I was buying the new music at the time – which was all grounded in the retro styles anyway. 

From mixes of Hip Hop and Beats productions – sampling old jazz and funk – through to mixes of specific jazz labels such as Blue Note and Prestige – in fact there are several “45 only” mixes up there. 

Also a passion for me to collect and champion was that mid-late 60s New York Latin Boogaloo sound – which shined for a brief few years in that time. 

It was the perfect hybrid of the earlier soul-jazz sound – mixed with the latin and afro-cuban influence and given a new voice for a new generation. 

I just love the whole evolution of music and the way new genres are created and in turn, influence other music over time. 

So there are some Boogaloo Mixes from a range of club hits to specific Latin label mixes such as “Cotique” and “Fania”  Records – There’s even stuff like “International Funky Rock” mixes – and I’ve recently been compiling mixes of 60s and 70s Library Music from UK and European labels.    There is some incredible jazz influenced music from those times !

You were suggested as a guest by WeeG (and every one of us agreed!), one of the Jazz Hobblers who hosts the monthly ‘Bright As The Sun’ live stream Jazz show for the Forty Five Kings Collective, can you tell us a little bit about your connection to WeeG, as we know you have relocated to Scotland.

Been up in Scotland last 7 years now,  living quite rural – some 30 mins South of Glasgow, before that I was in Essex for 15 years – after growing up in Bolton/ Manchester in 80s and 90s. 

Simply being part of a scene where we would travel all over the country, we would get to know people from everywhere who had the same lifestyle.  It was pretty incredible looking back and so far ahead of what we take for granted with the internet networking nowadays.  

However, since the 00’s the internet has really heightened the contact and interaction that people can have with like minded people.  So it was with Graeme (WeeG) where we had several mutual friends on the Facebook community and have been FB friends for a while before Graeme suggested hooking up with some of the shows and events that he had been involved with. 

There was also a mutual connection with an old mate and neighbour from Westcliff (Southend, Essex) who Weeg had already been chatting and collaborating with – Mr Mark Lancaster. 

It was Mark that actually got me involved with the Ship Full of Bombs radio station where I continue to do a monthly jazz based radio show called DIGGIN’- so it’s this back and forth web of people constantly collaborating!

What can we expect from your set on Sunday 12 June for Bright As The Sun?

I’ll be sorting out a cross section of jazz 45s – mainly centred on that 1960s/70s “soul-jazz / funk” sort of groove from USA but will probably slip in some Latin and Brasilian sevens – alongside some little nuggets from around rest of world and some more up to date releases. 

Hopefully some sounds that are new to people  – alongside some cuts that are considered classic or foundation recordings of their genre and are important milestones to me over the last 35 years.

Catch Si Cheeba this Sunday on at 12:45PM GMt/21:45PM AEST

Find Si Cheeba on Instagram!!