Brand New Heavies
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Brand New Heavies

Band Jazz Soul


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1990: The Brand New Heavies (featuring Jay Ella Ruth)
1991: The Brand New Heavies (featuring N'Dea Davenport)
1992: Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1 (featuring vocals by various hip hop groups and rappers)
1994: Brother Sister (featuring N'Dea Davenport)
1997: Shelter (featuring Siedah Garrett)
1997: Shibuya 357 (Japan only live album)
2003: We Won't Stop (Japan and Korea only release; featuring Sy Smith)
2004: Allaboutthefunk (featuring Nicole Russo)
2006: Get Used To It (featuring N'Dea Davenport)
2012: Dunk Your Trunk (download instrumental album)



The Brand New Heavies are a British music institution whose unique mix of jazz, funk and soul has lit up the dance scene for well over two decades – and shows no sign of stopping.

When glamorous filmstar Demi Moore posed naked and pregnant for the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in August 1991 approximately 100 million people saw the cover. Anyone who delved inside would have seen a feature headlined ‘Funky and Chic’ about up-and-coming British band the Brand New Heavies. They were far from new-born, having been conceived in the London suburb of Ealing in 1985 – but they were about to deliver the world some unique music.

The founding and ever-present trio of Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy on drums/keyboards, guitar and bass respectively had been influential in creating what became known as the acid jazz scene. They have since steered the Brand New Heavies into the current millennium, where they remain as influential and respected as ever.

The name was homage to soul godfather James Brown, who was once billed as the ‘Minister of New Super Heavy Funk’. ‘We supported him at Wembley once,’ guitarist Bartholomew later revealed. ‘We were soundchecking and James Brown arrives…dressed in this amazing olive green suit with a sort of Kentucky Fried Chicken tie. And we jammed in front of him. He was like “you guys sound great”. It was mind-blowing for us because he basically invented funk.’

The Heavies first made their reputation on the Eighties London club circuit and were standard-bearers for acid jazz, the slower-paced, more soulful counterpart of acid house that also spawned the likes of Jamiroquai and Galliano.

A single, ‘Got To Give’, came out on Cooltempo before the band signed to Acid Jazz Records and released ‘Brand New Heavies’ in 1990 with the emphasis on instrumental rather than vocal material. In America, where they were signed to the Delicious Vinyl label, they started getting press attention. Jan Kincaid recalls ‘a live show in New York which also got great press. Word got back to the UK and suddenly there was this massive buzz … From then on, the public and press perception really took off for us.’

This Stateside connection had grown even stronger when they linked with American singer N’Dea Davenport. Having made her name in Los Angeles, where she’d headed with $300 in her pocket after leaving her native Atlanta, she continued her travels to London after Eurythmic Dave Stewart offered her a solo record deal. She didn’t take this up, instead linking with the Heavies, and the band’s first golden period was about to begin.

Their eponymous debut album, re-issued with Davenport’s vocals added, took off around the world in 1992, fuelled by the hits ‘Never Stop’ (a new track), ‘Stay This Way’ and ‘Dream Come True’. The video for ‘Stay This Way’ enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV, taking them to a still wider audience.

Just when you would have thought they’d capitalise on this first success, the Heavies then took a stylistic left turn and came up with ‘Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1’, joining forces with a number of popular rappers including Main Source, Gang Starr, Grand Puba and the Pharcyde. The inspiration had been a show with MC Serch (formerly of 3rd Bass) and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest in New York which had inspired them to incorporate elements of hip-hop in their music.

Two years later came the album many fans still consider their peak. ‘Brother Sister’ included the hits ‘Dream On Dreamer’, ‘Back To Love’ and ‘Spend Some Time’ and soared all the way to Number 4 in the UK chart, turning platinum in the process. It also contained their biggest chart single to that date, the Number 13 smash ‘Midnight At The Oasis’. This cover of the 1974 Maria Muldaur hit became a UK radio staple but, curiously, was not released Stateside.

It was also unusual in being a song pure and simple. As Kincaid explained, improvised jamming had always been ‘one of our fundamental ways of making music. That’s always how we start, with beats and groove…the songwriting comes later, it’s a tribal/folk/communal thing.’

Davenport’s departure in 1994 to complete a long-delayed solo album didn’t derail the Heavies. And why should it when they could call upon a replacement as talented as Siedah Garrett? A long-time associate of Quincy Jones, she had recently recorded and toured with Michael Jackson, duetting with him for ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ and co-writing ‘Man In The Mirror’.

As part of the band, Garrett co-wrote their Top 20 hit ‘Sometimes’, which peaked at Number 11 in the UK and helped propel the ‘Shelter’ album to Number 5. But, as with ‘Midnight At The Oasis’, it was when the Heavies lent their trademark sound to a well-chosen standard, in this case Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, that the biggest commercial rewards were obtained. Originally a US chart-topper for James Taylor and performed by its writer a quarter of a century earlier on her ‘Tapestry’ al