Rocket Number Nine Takes Off for the Planet Soul Clap!

On Wednesday night March 14, Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus got the call from Mister Jonathan Toubin–one of the world’s premier diggers of reet music. Can The Boog swing a few sets that Saturday (the 17th) for his sensational Soul Clap and Dance Off? However, this would not be just any Soul Clap and Dance Off; this one will feature James Chance & the Contortions and The Sun Ra Arkestra. This would be one night of hot music!

The reply: ¡No Problemo!

So, in two days, The Boog was able to assemble three very different sets of groovy music in order to perform the task at hand.

As you may remember from earlier Boogaloo Bag entries regarding Jonathan Toubin, he runs an enterprise known as the New York Night Train. It produces fabulous reet music spectacles–mostly the Soul Clap and Dance Off, but other events as well–that take place regularly in New York City, and semi-regularly around the country. Starting in January, his Soul Claps in New York have been happening at Elsewhere, a huge venue on the far reaches of East Williamsburg. The venue has a big concert room that could hold probably about 1,000 people, maybe more. It also has several smaller rooms where folks can hang out and buy drinks. One of the smaller rooms is called Zone One, and it has a small stage and plenty of room for dancing.

Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus swings at the Soul Clap!

The Boog’s first set took place in the large hall, as a warm-up for James Chance. For this, he played some very funky things, as one can see by the set list below:

Although Mr. Chance is not as svelte as he once was, he is still a pretty compelling performer. He played his alto saxophone and sang and screamed and bopped around the stage as his band–guitar, bass, drums, trumpet–backed him with taut, angular rhythms that were perfect for his brand of funk. The room was pretty full when Mr. Chance was on stage and all the folks were into it. His version of the Gil Scott-Heron song “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” was very cool and he encored with a James Brown number.

James Chance and the Contortions swing at the Soul Clap!

After his set, Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus played these records:

As the hep Boogaloo Bag Reader knows, the great futuristic jazz orchestra leader Sun Ra passed from this existence to another in 1993. With Sun Ra no longer physically able to lead the band, leadership of The Arkestra passed first to saxophonist John Gilmore, who died in 1995, then to Marshall Allen, another saxophonist who had worked with Sun Ra off and on–mostly on–since the late Fifties; so you know he has a good idea how to keep the Sun Ra brand of highly visionary and magnificent yet entirely enjoyable music alive.

And alive it is! The Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of Marshall Allen was incredible on this night–surpassed only by the first time the Boogaloo Bag writers witnessed the Sun Ra Arkestra in action in the spring of 1981 at Myron’s Ballroom in Downtown Los Angeles. To try and describe this performance would be futile, as there are no words in the English language that are accurate. Suffice it to say, the Arkestra consisted of about 20 musicians, including a woman singer, a full horn section and two violin players, all dressed in glittery costumes that seemed to harken to ancient Egypt yet were modernistic and of a space-age design. Although the band may appear to adhere to certain big band traditions leftover from the swing era, only a complete idiot would confuse this act with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Orchestra. The show was as modern as it can get and included excellent chanting, hot solos from many of the members–especially from the 93-year-old Mr. Allen–band members marching through the crowd and psychedelic images projected behind the band. It was marvelous.

After the Sun Ra Arkestra played, Phast Phreddie moved his activities to Zone One, where our pal Kid Congo was setting up the turntables for a dance event that would feature Mr. Congo, James Chance (his debut as a DJ) and the Phast Man. This was a sort of sideshow to the main event, the Soul Clap, in the large room. There was some confusion at first, as it took awhile for the sound technician to get the equipment to work properly, and more when it was pointed out that Mr. Chance was only prepared to work with compact discs. Once things got sorted, and a CD player was hooked up, Mr. Congo played some hot records that got those in the small room excited enough to bop around the dance floor. There was a full room and it looked as if it would turn out to be a fun night.

James Chance and his trumpet player swing along to the songs Mr. Chance played in Zone One!

After a while, Mr. Congo turned the show over to James Chance. He opened his set with the Ramsey Lewis version of “Wade in the Water,” during which Mr. Chance and his trumpet player proceeded to play their instruments along with the song. At first it seemed kind of cool and rather novel. The trumpet player, and sometimes Mr. Chance on his alto saxophone, then proceeded to play along with many of the tracks he aired. The songs he played were pretty cool, actually, but they were mid-tempo soul records that did not go over well on the dance floor. The punters were not taking to this at all and eventually they left the room. After about six or seven songs, Mr. Congo directed Mr. Chance play two more. His final selection (played after almost a minute of dead air!) was a pop standard sung by a male vocalist that sent the last four dancers out of the room. He and Mr. Congo then exited the Zone One room to join Jonathan Toubin for some sort of performance during the Soul Clap and Dance Off.

James Chance is instructed in the high art of playing records to a room full of dancers by Kid Congo!

Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus swings for the kids in Zone One.

At this point, Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus took the reins. His job: get those folks back! Not easy, with such hot action as the Soul Clap going on in the big room, but it was hoped that perhaps a few folks may be overwhelmed by the crowd in the large hall and seek more intimate dancing space in Zone One. The Boog played some of the hottest records in his Vintage Astro Sounds a’ Go-Go arsenal. Dig:

Folks eventually returned to Zone One to bop around. Half way through the set, the place had filled up nicely. By the time The Boog played his last record, the room was jumping again. Then Kid Congo returned to work Zone One and he was able to finish the night with an excellent room full of dancing bodies. The Boog and the Boogaloo Bag photographer Miss Nancy “Jeannie” Gardner visited the big room to dance around a bit to Mr. Toubin’s fabulous Soul Clap sounds before heading home.

Jonathan Toubin swings at the Soul Clap and Dance Off!

None of the records listed above are for sale. Some of them have links to the youtubes clips–click on them and experience some of The Boog’s portion of the sensational Soul Clap! (Note that all of the record played by The Boog were 7″ singles; some of the clips have the LP version, which may be the only version on the youtubes.)

Mr. Jonathan Toubin prepares for the Soul Clap and Dance Off in the Green Room.

Jonathan Toubin swings at the Soul Clap and Dance Off!

Kid Congo unlaxes before a night of swingin’ at the Soul Clap and Dance Off!

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