Soul Fire Label Keeps Funk Raw

SOUL FIRE NIGHT featuring DJs Phillip Lehman and Jeff Dynamite with DEE JAY NAV and Jason Palma at Una.

SOUL FIRE NIGHT featuring DJs Phillip Lehman and Jeff Dynamite with DEE JAY NAV and Jason Palma at Una Mas (422 Adelaide West), Saturday (February 2). $10. 416-703-4862.

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If it was recorded after 1975, Phillip Lehman probably won’t like it. This is the same New York-based funk collector who left the Desco label he co-founded to start up his own Soul Fire imprint when the former was no longer meeting his high groove standard of rawness.

One of the few funk label impresarios devoted to nurturing new talent along with reissuing long-lost 7-inch classics — he was behind the popular Pure series — Lehman is a key driving force in the growing funk revival movement. But any group aspiring to join the Whitfield Brothers (aka Poets of Rhythm), Calypso King and Speedometer on Soul Fire should be advised that they’ll need to be able to fool Lehman into thinking they cut their tracks back in the late 60s.

“A couple of years ago I went into the A-1 Records shop in New York, where I heard this amazing funk record,” remembers Lehman. “I was 100 per cent sure it was an impossibly rare 45 that I never knew existed. It was, like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to have it, whatever the price.’

“But Aldo just gave it to me, saying, ‘Here, I’ve got two. And by the way, the guy who made it is right there.’ It was the first Calypso King record. That blew my mind. I was convinced it was something from the 60s. They’ve got the sound down, just four cheap microphones and a two-track analog machine — that’s all it takes.”

Releasing Calypso King records and digging for obscure steel-band recordings of Hot Pants Road doesn’t leave Lehman a lot of time to work on his turntable skills, so he’ll be playing selector with WKCR-FM DJ Jeff Dynamite at the Soul Fire Night on Saturday.

“It’s been about 10 years since I’ve played in a club,” confides Lehman. “I’m super-paranoid about my records, so the whole thing is freaking me out right now. But I’m sure it’ll be a great time.

“I’ll be bringing a good selection of hardcore funk and Afrobeat, from mid-tempo to fast. Don’t expect to hear any house, though. To be blunt, I think most of the music being made today is shit.”

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