Illicit Grooves Continues Its Relationship With International Jazz Day in 2019

So happy to announce that once again The Return of the Illicit Groove will be hosting official events for International Jazz day in 2019.

Running every April the 30th since 2012, this brainchild of maestro Herbie Hancock will this year feature a gala concert hosted by Sydney, Australia.

As part of the worldwide series of events we can so far confirm that The Illicit Grooves Radio Show ,to be broadcast on Starpoint Radio on Friday the 26th of April, will be one of our contributions to this annual celebration of the world’s truly global music genre.

The show will feature music from all the host cities and countries since 2012 including from South Africa in celebration of Cape Town being awarded the honour of hosting in 2020.

tigrads 26 april 19 jazzday banner

We will also be adding more events to the programme so please keep an eye on all

The Return of the Illicit Groove social media and listen in to The Illicit Grooves Radio Show for more details.

As always you will be able to view the gala concert from Sydney via this website.

You can also listen to the show we produced for the 2018 International Jazz day here.


Beograd: An Illicit Grooves Story From The White City

Belgrade, what a city.  My first time there and definitely not going to be my last.  I write this 24 hours after returning home from one of the best weekends I’ve ever had in the more than 25 years since the start of The Return of the Illicit Groove and The Illicit Grooves Radio Show.

I was in the ‘White City’ ostensibly as the overseas guest DJ for The IV Funk Kongres organised by Loud Minority (Belgrade); a collective of DJs, record collectors, broadcasters, record shop owners, venue owners and black music aficionados based in Belgrade, wider Serbia and the Balkans.

Top of the Hub 1
At the IV Funk Kongres with Milena and Zorana from Loud Minority (Belgrade)

Invited by Milena Ni and Zorana Radic, two members of the collective and real powerhouses in the organisation of the Funk Kongres, I arrived in the city on Thursday the 13th.  The first gig of the weekend was that very night in a Belgrade institution, the bar and record shop Leila Records.

Leila 1
DJing in Leila Records

What a great place.  Run by husband and wife team Sasa and Jovona Jaramaz, Leila Records has a great selection of vinyl and the best plum brandy Rakija you could ask for.  Also, one of those cafe style venues in European cities that being invited to play in has a certain cache. Think Spiritland in London or Le Melletron in Paris.  Leila has a real atmosphere about it, a real look that I can only describe as suitable for a location in a European Noir film.  I loved it in there and was to return a few times over the weekend to drink the excellent coffee, listen to tunes and sip ‘just one more Rakija’.

Leila 3
DJing in Leila with Aki offering more Rakija.  I said yes.


So what of my set that night.  I played it low key, mixed Soul and Funk with some House and  few bits of Jazz-Funk and responded to the very wonderful laid back atmosphere of the venue and the patrons.  Talking of the patrons, it really was good to see such a wide age range across the sexes.  From 20somethings to those of us who are no longer in our first flushes, an equal mix of men and women and a real appreciation and knowledge of music.

It was at Leila I was also introduced to Aki, the founder of Loud Minority (Belgrade) and Marko, the owner of the next night’s venue; Strogi Centar.

Now Strogi Centar is possibly one of the venues that on first encountering I just couldn’t wait to play there.  After the Leila gig, I guess around 1am we headed to Strogi and I found myself being led through a front entrance of what I though was a squat in a dilapidated house.

Strogi Outside 2
Outside Strogi Centre.

Wow, once inside though, it was clear that this was more than a club, it was like being in some kind of radical leftist commune but with a great sound system and great music.  As an aside, and I must thank Jelena from Jelena’s Belgrade Tours for this information; the house is in what was the the well-to-do Jewish quarter of the city and it’s history has included being stolen from the original family by the invading Nazis,  occupied by the liberating Partizans, then by the Communist government, restored back to the family in the early 90s and now run by Marko as this brilliant venue.

strogi interior
Inside the Strogi Centar

That night’s entertainment was a jam session featuring Jazz students from the Belgrade Music School, and against the backdrop of the brilliant murals of Fela Kuti, Nina Simone and others, these student musicians did a night of improvised Jazz that was somewhat comparable to Deptford’s Steamdown gigs in its concept and age range of the audience.

Friday Night I went on the decks just on the stroke of midnight and played a full on Illicit Grooves set.  Finishing just after 3am I was able to play Jazz Fusion, Soul, Hip-Hop, Latin, Boogie, Salsoul, Disco, House, Rare Groove and Reggae.  With music ranging from Norman Connors to Stetsasonic to Alison Limerick to Yazoo to The Herbaliser to Steel Pulse the esoteric and eclectic nature of the venue inspired a set which went #AcrossTheTracks*, including tracks from the Lost Set as featured in a previous blog. Definitely a venue where I would love to play again and a venue where part of the joy was seeing so many young people into their soul, funk and jazz.  An open minded group who clearly love to dance.

*when an Illicit Grooves set goes #AcrossTheTracks it means anything can happen

Strogi 1
DJing in Strogi Centar

So to the main event on the Saturday night.  With previous incarnations of The Funk Kongres having been held in a city centre Army restaurant the increase in popularity and numbers meant that the organisers needed somewhere bigger.  Set in Novi-Beograd (New Belgrade) the Top of the Hub is sited near the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers and is an impressive piece of modern architecture.

Top of the Hub exterior
The Top of the Hub building dominating the skyline.  Hit by Cruise missiles some 20 years ago, now somewhere people come to dance and have fun.  That’s payback.

Historically the home to the Central Committee of then President Slobodan Milosevic’s party it was bombed by NATO during the war against Serbia in the 1990s.  Now, I’ve DJed in many different venues in my time; in fields, in barns, in a stone circle, out of the back of a converted horse box, on stages in theatres, in a Parisian wine cellar,  on the street, in clubs and bars but , as far as I know, never in a venue that has been hit by Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.  Whatever its history, it is a really impressive venue and commands superb views across the city.

A 700 capacity crowd enjoyed DJs, dancers and bands from Belgrade and across Serbia in an event that was part club night but also part live radio show as famous faces from the Yugoslavian and Balkan music scenes were interviewed.  Highlight for me in terms of the live acts was the band Belgrade Funk Combo and I loved the set from DJ Timbe who played such a wicked set that I completely changed my mind as to what I would play.

Bob and Timbe
Waiting to go on at IV Funk Kongres and loving DJ Timbe’s set.  All played on 7″ singles

For the record the tunes I recall playing were Freda Payne (Unhooked Generation), Sounds of Blackness (Optimistic), Juggy Jones (Inside America), Starvue (Body Fusion), the Illicit Grooves Re-Edit of Steve Arrington’s Feel So Real, The Equals (Funky Like A Train) and the track which really caused the most reaction Michael Kiwanuka’s Black Man In A White World, definitely an anthem for our times.

Would I go back to Belgrade? Would I love to play there again? Would I recommend Belgrade? Would I recommend Leila, Strogi Centre and Funk Kongres? – YES, YES and thrice YES.

Just go there and see for yourselves – it’s a fucking brilliant city and the music, the food (pickled vegetables are the bomb), the histories, the people and the nightlife are just some of the reasons why I’ll be returning.

Oh and the favourite TV show in Serbia?  Only Fools and Horses. Cushty.

Don’t forget to vote in The Illicit Grooves 2018 Awards and Poll here.

shortlist cover


Shortlist Revealed for The Return of the Illicit Groove Annual Poll & Awards. Read how you can get involved.

Thanks to our guest panel of DJs, music promoters, journalists, radio producers and broadcasters we can now publish their selections for the Shortlist for this year’s annual awards.  The poll is now open.


As usual you can vote for your choice of winner in each of the four categories; Favourite Track, Favourite Album, Favourite Re-Issue and Favourite Compilation released between November 2017 and November 2018.

The Longlist itself, published last month confirmed the quality of releases this past 12 months and proved to be a difficult task in narrowing down to this year’s Shortlist.  All definitely Grooves For The Global Leftfield #g4gl

The Illicit Grooves Radio Shows broadcast on the 14th and 21st of December will be Shortlist specials with tracks from two of the four categories featured in each show.  You can listen to both shows live on Starpoint Radio at 11pm (GMT) and the podcasts will be available the next day at 1pm (GMT) on our Soundcloud page.  Please follow us on Soundcloud.

Vote Here.

Favourite Album

Illicit Grooves Poll & Awards 2018

Sons of Kemet

Your Queen is A Reptile (Impulse)

Kamasi Washington

Heaven & Earth (Young Turks)

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids

An Angel Fell (Strut)

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy

Let Your Light Shine On (MPS)


The Shakedown (22A)


There Is A Place (Brownswood)

Joe Armon-Jones

Starting Today (Brownswood

Favourite Compilation

Illicit Grooves Poll & Awards 2018

Martin Freeman & Eddie Pillar present Jazz On The Corner

Acid Jazz

Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Z Records

We Out Here

Brownswood Recordings

A New Life Vol II

Jazzman Records

Venezuela 70 Vol II

Soul Jazz Records

Soul of A Nation Vol II

Soul Jazz Records

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan

BBE Music






Favourite Re-Issue

Illicit Grooves Poll & Awards 2018

Ryo Fukui

Scenery (We Release Jazz)

Jesse Sharps & PAPA

Sharps & Flats (Outernational Sounds)

Charles Mingus

Strata Concert (180 Proof & BBE MUsic)

John Coltrane

Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (Impulse Records)

Marcus Valle

Nova Bossa Nova (Far Out Recordings)

Os Cadetraticos (Eumir Deodato)

Ataque (Far Out Recordings)

Favourite Track

Illicit Grooves Poll & Awards 2018

Nubya Garcia

When We Are

Sons of Kemet

My Queen is Harriet Tubman

Toshio Matsuura Group


Azhaar & Global Wave

Original Love

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids

Warrior Dance

Chip Wickham

Snake Eyes

Joe Armon-Jones

Starting Today

Born74 feat. Arema Arega

Blue Bossa My Feeling





The Return of the Illicit Groove Annual Poll & Awards: Meet The Shortlisting Panel

After the publication of the longlist for The Return of the Illicit Groove Annual Awards & Poll the shortlisted nominees have now been selected by the shortlisting panel. The shortlist itself will be published on Wednesday, December the 12th.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to the members of that panel.

Zakia Sewell

Zakia is a radio host and producer with a weekly show on NTS Radio.  Questing, which goes out every Saturday at 10am (GMT) playing spiritual jazz, psychedelic soul and other celestial grooves from across the planet.

Zakia Djs at London’s famed Jazz Cafe with a monthly residency, Djed at the Southern Soul Festival 2018 in Montenegro, worked behind the counter at Honest Jon’s records, worked for the Stuart Hall Foundation and has production credits for the BBC which includes a brilliant documentary on the composer Julius Eastman.



Blue Lightning

Blue Lightning is 50% superhero, 50% Peacock and 100% nerd and a well known face on the Jazz, Soul, Funk and Dance scene in Europe.

She fell in love with music at a young age, both heavily influenced and encouraged by her father for whom she worked from the age of 8, spending her wages on music, a habit which has never left her.  Her tastes range from Brazillian and Latin to dancing to dirty Disco with her eyes shut, jamming to Bollywood with her dad and Jazz-Funk and Rare Groove.  She describes good music as ‘something which makes you feel funny inside.’

She admires many DJs but her first love is live performance. ‘Nothing will ever be better than watching incredible music performed live.  These are the musical experiences I live for.’

Now working in post-production on music documentaries and movies for HBO and Netflix  Blue worked for 10 years hosting TV shows for Europe’s most prolific Asian channel and was the assistant producer on an Asian underground music show.



Milena Ni

Milena is a Soul music lover, DJ and music executive in Belgrade, Serbia.  She is also one of the founders of the Loud Minority (Belgrade) organisation and organiser of the annual Funk Kongres in that city.  The next being the IV Funk Kongres on December the 15th.

You may also recall that Milena curated a guest playlist for The Illicit Grooves Radio Show broadcast in June of 2018.  Her playlist featured artists as diverse as Anita baker and Cyrille Aimee and you can listen to it here.



Mark Blee

Mark is well known as the presenter of the weekly Movin’ On show on Soul-Power Radio which kicks off that station’s Monday Night Jazz Club at 6pm (GMT).

As a DJ Mark has guested at premiere events such as Shiftless Shuffle, the Fish Party in Perpignan, the London Soul Cruise, Music Without Labels and the Cotswold Soul Weekender.  Along with three friends and fellow DJs Mark is one of the founders and residents of the Monthly Sunday afternoon event Ease Your Mind in Banbury, North Oxon.

Mark also created and produced an excellent guest mix for The Illicit Grooves Radio Show which you can listen to here.



Bob Hill

Panel chair Bob Hill is the founder of The Return to the Illicit Groove organisation and the host of The illicit Grooves Radio Show broadcast every Friday night from 11pm (GMT) on Starpoint Radio.

Bob is a music writer who has interviewed and written about luminaries such as Roy Ayers, Arema Arega, Azhaar Saffar, DJ Amir and more and been published in Blues and Soul, Soul Trade, Mixmag and various newspapers over the last 30 years.

Working as a copywriter for ReddSugarBlack Creative Words For Business Bob has created content for various record labels and broadcasting media.

DJing in Perpignan


What Happens Next and How Can You Be Involved

The shortlist will be published on this blog, on The Return of the Illicit Groove Facebook page and The Illicit Grooves Radio Show Facebook group and shared across all social media on Wednesday the 12th of December at 6pm (GMT).

As well as all the nominated shortlists for the four categories of Favourite Album, Favourite Track, Favourite, Compilation and Favourite Re-Issue of 2018 there will be a link to a survey where you can vote for your favourite in each category.

The poll closes on January the 18th and the winners will be announced on Friday January 25th with a special broadcast of The Illicit Grooves Radio Show that night at 11pm (GMT).  As always the show will be available on the Illicit Grooves’ Soundcloud page at 1pm (GMT) the following Saturday.

Illicit Grooves logos outlined-17

How The Shortlist was Selected

Anyone familiar with the Lewis-Duckworth method of establishing the result of a rained off cricket match will know that there are ‘statistics and damn lies’.  So in a spirit of fairness and openness here is how the shortlists for each of the four categories were chosen.

Each longlist had circa 15 entries, each panelist gave each entry a score from 1-15 with one being the best.  The total scores for each entry was then divided by the number of panelists to gain an average score which it was then assigned.  The lowest 5 average scores were then put forward into the shortlist.  Where there were equal scores more than one nominee was put forward.


John Coltrane: Lost Tunes and Feared Songs.

John Coltrane died in 1967, the year I was born, but it feels like his music and genius was always a presence in my life.  I do remember his Blue Train LP in the record collection in my childhood home. I have a particularly fond memory of meeting up with my dad in the original ‘Ray’s Jazz Shop’ in Shaftsbury Avenue sometime in the late 80s and him buying the long misplaced album again on CD.  In solidarity with the old man and inspired by the Will Downing track of the same name, which was a favourite slab of 80s groove of mine, I bought Love Supreme.




In recent years Coltrane has come to the attention of new audiences. Firstly due to the 2016 documentary film Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary and its attendant soundtrack release.  A film which charts his musical journey as part of Miles Davis’ band, then his solo career, the influence of his wife, the harpist Alice Coltrane and his decision to explore the avant garde, free jazz and spiritual jazz as his response to civil rights, Afro-Centrism and the beginnings of Black Power.

chasing trane

Added to this was the 2017 release of Late Trane, an album of re-interpretations of Coltrane’s work by the London saxophonist, composer, award winner and Tomorrow’s Warriors graduate Denys Baptiste.  An album which gained critical acclaim and a JAZZ FM Awards nomination in 2018.

Then, in 2018, came the news that a collection of new recordings had been discovered which were subsequently released on Coltrane’s former label Impulse Records as the album Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album; a release which found its way into the mainstream pop album charts in the UK and is a longlist nominee in the The Return of the Illicit Groove’s 2018 Poll & Awards.


As a nod to the importance of John Coltrane to the world of music and a personal reflection of how many of his songs feature in the playlists of The Illicit Grooves Radio Show, we have put together an #AcrossTheTracks mix of Coltrane and Coltrane related tunes.

As with most mix selections the hardest thing is choosing the first track.  However, during the research for this article we came across a short documentary, about the complexities involved in the composition and playing of Coltrane’s Giant Steps. So we start with that.


Listen to the John Coltrane: Lost Tunes & Feared Songs mix here on the Illicit Grooves Soundcloud archives.


Watch BBC documentary ‘Jazzology with Soweto Kinch’ here.

What is Jazz and how does it work? A big question asked by saxophonist Soweto Kinch which frames this excellent overview of Jazz, and its importance as a cultural art form, its relationships with Blues and Gospel and its influences on Funk and Hip-Hop.

soweto kinch portrait
Soweto Kinch

In conversations and jam sessions with Nicholas Payton, Courtney Pine, Yazz Ahmed, Cassie Kinoshi, Esperanza Spalding and others Soweto Kinch visits New Orleans, London and New York City to answer the the question he asks at the beginning of this film.

cassie kinoshi
Cassie Kinoshi of Nerija

By looking at the history of the art form, the social and political backgrounds of the music’s innovations and its innovators in the USA and exploring the influences of the diaspora, of Grime, of Dubstep & of Caribbean heritages in the UK this film shows how jazz is such an evolutionary and revolutionary music with improvisation at its core.

courtney and yazz
Courtney Pine & Yazz Ahmed

Watch ‘Jazzology with Soweto Kinch‘ here on the BBC iPlayer.

esperanza spalding headwrap
Esperanza Spalding

The Illicit Grooves 2018 Poll Longlist Revealed

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we at The Return of the Illicit Groove look back over the musical year and select the Grooves For The Global Leftfield #g4gl which have made an impression on us in 2018.

To qualify for the categories of Best Album, Best Track, Best Re-Issue and Best Compilation in the Illicit Grooves Poll the respective nominees must be music released between 25/11/2017 and 24/11/2018 and has been played on The Illicit Grooves Radio Show  in that same period.

So feast your eyes on the longlist below and then read on to find out how you can select the eventual winners in each category as readers of The Return of The Illicit Groove and listeners of The Illicit Grooves Radio Show.

Album of the Year

Listeners’ Poll 2018

Cuong Vu 4Tet

Change In The Air (Rare Noise Records)

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Black Times (Strut Records)

Sons of Kemet

Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse Records)

Toshio Matsuura Group

Love Play Dance (Brownswood)

Azhaar & Global Wave

Original Love (Far productions)

Kamasi Washington

Heaven & Earth (Young Turks)

Chip Wickham

Shamal Wind (Lovemonk)

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids

An Angel Fell (Strut Records)

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy

Let Your Light Shine On (MPS Record)


The Shakedown (22A)


There Is A Place (Brownswood)

Joe Armon-Jones

Starting Today (Brownswood)

Auntie Flo

Radio Highlife (Brownswood)

Moses Boyd

Displaced Diaspora (Exodus Records)

The Gondwana Orchestra Feat. Dwight Trible

Colors (Gondwana Records)


Welcome To This World (Afrosynth Records)

Sean Khan

Palmares Fantasy (Far Out Recordings)


Compilation of the Year

Listeners’ Poll 2018

Martin Freeman & Eddie Pillar present Jazz On The Corner

Acid Jazz Martin Freeman & Eddie Piller

Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Z Records  Colin Curtis

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984

BBE Music Tony Higgins & Mike Peden

We Out Here

Brownswood Recordings Shabaka Hutchings

Spiritual Jazz 8: Modal, Esoteric & Ethereal Jazz From Japan 1961-1983 Parts 1 & 2

Jazzman Records Gerald short & Yusuke Ogawa

World Jazz Grooves

BBE Music Jean-Claude & Victor Kiswell

Grooveland Deep House vol 1

Grooveland Edson Edground

A New Life Vol 2

Jazzman Records Francis Gooding & Duncan Brooker

50 Years of MPS

MPS Records

Marcel Vogel’s Lumberjacks in Hell

BBE Music  Marcel Vogel

Venezuela 70 Volume 2

Soul Jazz Records

Serge Gamesbourg presents Boston Goes Disco

BBE Music Serge Gamesbourg

Havana Cultura Subelo Cuba

Brownswood Recordings Gilles Peterson

Soul of A Nation Vol. II Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher

Soul Jazz Records


Re-Issue of the Year

Listeners’ Poll 2018

Leon’s Creation

This Is The Beginning (Acid Jazz)


Brasil (SoulJazz Records)

Ryo Fukui

Scenery (We Release Jazz)

Harold Vick

Don’t Look Back (Pure Pleasure Recordings)

Jesse Sharps and PAPA

Sharps & Flats (Outernational)

Charles Mingus

Strata Concert (180-Proof & BBE Music)*

John Coletrane

Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album* (Impulse Records)

Marcus Valle

Nova Bossa Nova (Far Out Recordings

Chris Bowden

Time Capsule (Soul Jazz Records)

Itibere Orqustra Familia

Pedro Do Espia (Far Out Recordings)

Os Cadetraticos (Eumir Deodato)

Ataque (Far Out Recordings)

Koichi Matsukaze Trio

Earth Mother (BBE Music)

Ralph Thomas

Eastern Standard Time (BBE Music)

Tohru Aizawa Quartet

Tachibana (BBE Muisc)

Takeo Moriyama

East Plants (BBE Music)

Craetive Arts Ensemble

One Step Out (Outernational Sounds)

*Although not strictly re-Issues the nature of the Mingus and Coletrane albums mean they fit best in this category


Track of the Year

Listeners’ Poll 2018

Nubya Garcia

When We Are

Sons of Kemet

My Queen is Harriet Tubman

Toshio Matsuura Group


Azhaar & Global Wave

Original Love

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids

Warrior Dance

Chip Wickham

Snake Eyes

Joe Armon-Jones

Starting Today

Born74 feat. Arema Arega

Blue Bossa My Feeling

Jessica Lauren


Cuong Vu 4Tet

Must Concentrate

Mfa Kera & Black Heritage

Humans Humans!



1000 Kings

The Drop

Sons of Kemet

My Queen Is Ada Eastman


Eaglehurst/The Palace


How You Can Choose The Winners For The 2018 Illicit Grooves Poll

The categories will be boiled down to shortlists.  This whittling down process is where we welcome a selection panel to add its expertise.  The panel, comprised of five DJs, radio show hosts, journalists, music executives and producers will be announced in December.

The shortlist will be announced on Friday the 7th of December 2018 at 6pm (GMT) with a special edition of The Illicit Grooves Radio Show broadcast on the same night at 11pm on Starpoint Radio.

You, the Illicit Grooves audience, listeners and readers will then be able to select your favourite in each category in a public vote which will run from the 7th of December until the 18th of January 2019.

The results will be announced on Friday the 25th of January at 6pm (GMT) on all the Illicit Grooves social media channels and a special poll winners show that night on Starpoint Radio.

Take a look at the results of the 2017 poll here.

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The Return Of The Illicit Groove Poll 2018 is sponsored by ReddSugarBlack Creative Content.