Stevie G: Choice Cuts crew still going strong after 20 years

In his Downtown column, Stevie G marks the 20th anniversary of Choice Cuts with a look at some of the Cork shows they co-promoted 
Stevie G: Choice Cuts crew still going strong after 20 years

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have become a fixture in the Cork live music scene since their iconic debut in The Pav in 2008.

Choice Cuts is currently celebrating 20 years of running hip-hop/soul and jazz events in Dublin, and they have played a significant part in the make-up of Cork's music scene in that time too. 

In Dublin, they have entertained the likes of Mos Def, Biz Markie, Ghostface Killah, Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Roy Ayers, Marva Whitney, and many many more, and Mark Murphy and his team are the primary promoters when it comes to bringing the best hip-hop related music to the capital regularly.

Today I’m gonna highlight some of the shows that were co-promoted down here, in a number of different venues, some of which are now gone. Choice Cuts are still active running gigs and they will be involved in programming some of the forthcoming jazz festival shows, continuing a great relationship with Cork that began in the early 2000s. Many of those early shows, such as Breakestra in the Half Moon, and the Irish leg of the DMC championships in the Savoy, have me nostalgic for venues that are no longer hosting gigs anymore. Indeed, the last 18 months have me nostalgic for any type of show, but hopefully, we will all be enjoying live gigs regularly soon.

When it comes to speaking about these Cork shows, it’s important to note that the early 2000s was somewhat a golden era for bigger shows here, particularly when it came to hip-hop and other related genres. Not all of these shows were Choice Cuts related, but they started around this time, and by the end of that decade they were key players in Cork and elsewhere.

In the ’90s our club scene had earned international respect. Based primarily around the legendary Sweat residency in Sir Henrys, Cork became a credible clubbing destination and bank holiday weekenders brought the best DJs in the world to Cork on the regular. Soon, other promoters and venues got more involved, and the Southern Soul and Disco weekender was one of the first times we had proper live hip-hop and soul acts here all weekend. One-off events, like Feile 95, meant we got to see Massive Attack and others live, while acts like Portishead visited Cork in a great era for music.

Ultimately, the 90s era was best known for the DJs who visited, but we all knew that Cork's own DJs, such as Greg and Shane of Sweat, were as good as any. The following decade the Savoy opened and soon the big names started arriving. The Marquee series in 2005 meant Kanye, Snoop, Jay Z and co came through, while the Savoy hosted Wu Tang, Public Enemy, Gil Scott Heron, and many more. Meanwhile, Choice Cuts were helping run shows in not only the Savoy, but also the Half Moon, Cyprus Avenue, the Bodega, The Pav, and Crane Lane.

The highlights were many, but the Damon Albarn Honest Jons Chop-up line-up in the Savoy for the jazz festival in 2011 was arguably the greatest ever line-up on one Cork stage. Recently departed legends such as Tony Allen and Phil Cohran, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Theo Parrish, Fatoumata Diawara, Flea from the Chili Peppers, Shangaan Electro and others shared a stage at an amazing show. A few years later, the legendary Sharon Jones headlined the Cork Opera House with the amazing Dap-Kings, backed by regular visitor Lee Fields and Saun and Starr on support. The Hot 8 Brass band did some legendary gigs too and were a big part of the Bodega's jazz festival programme for a few years. But there were many more.

De la Soul, Bilal, Edan, Soul 2 Soul, Cut Chemist, J Rocc, Pharcyde, Nicole Willis, Taylor McFerrin, Gza, and many more have been co-promoted by Choice Cuts here, and that's only a few. Choice Cuts are more than just music promoters and they have run everything from art and music talks to a record label too, and they’ve released some fantastic music, some of which is incoming again very soon. But perhaps their best known Cork tie-in comes from a group who have practically made Ireland their home.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble first played here in the Pav in 2008, and they have since gone on to play here more times than most working Cork bands. Hypnotic represent jazz and blues and soul with a unique 21st century hip-hop swagger, and more than anyone they epitomise also what Choice Cuts are all about! 

Happy birthday Choice Cuts!

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