Stuart Baker – Soul Jazz Records
Every Saturday morning you can tune into Soho Radio’s Music Channel for two hours of Soul Jazz Records.
You’ll occasionally hear the skip of vinyl or a needle pop but you won’t hear the voice of Stuart Baker, founder of Soul Jazz Records and Sounds of the Universe. He would prefer to let the music do the talking.
It’s not only soul and jazz that you’ll hear either; although Bakers passion started in this genre it quickly developed and expanded into ‘anything that’s non-mainstream’. Punk, Brazilian, acid house, country, southern rock, disco, reggae, latin, classical, Miami bass; the list goes on. His tastes, and subsequently the labels releases, vary so much, it’s rare that Baker will carry the same records into the Soho Radio studio on Broadwick Street any two Saturdays in a row.
As Baker puts it: ‘If you like Soul Jazz Records, it doesn’t mean you like a type of music, it means you like an idea, and that idea will transfer through different types of music.’
The passion started young; purchasing his first record at age 10, Baker went on to sell vinyl at a stall in Camden before using his passion to travel around the US, buying records to sell back in the UK.
This is how Sounds of the Universe, the record store, came to be settled in Soho today. In the early 90’s it opened on Ingestre Place before eventually finding its home at the end of Broadwick Street.
Each album sought to contextualise, and expand the understanding around, a musical genre developing in a specific time and place.
From here, Soul Jazz Records became a label, releasing some of the most popular records customers were after, before expanding into uniquely curated complications.
During this early period, compilation’s quickly became a mainstay to Soul Jazz Records, especially after the success of Nu Yorica! Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77. Much to early criticism, these were not simply made to service a gap in the market, each album sought to contextualise, and expand the understanding around, a musical genres developing in a specific time and place.
With the amount of thought and detail that goes into each complication (the research, cover art and multipage booklets to help explain the album) no-one would accuse Soul Jazz of using this as a quick and easy option for re-releases.
From the development of localised Punk scenes to Jamaican Rhythm and Blues these compilations made Soul Jazz Records the go-to, reliable source to get the lowdown on any number of underground music scenes.
Baker uses his Saturday show on Soho Radio to the same effect, going on 2 hour musical journeys; from Dub and Base, New York Disco or the dipping into Afro Rock. And as you might have guessed, he only plays records.
As Baker puts it, each of these albums and subsequently his radio program, are made to ‘explore music as a creative cultural expression of society, and use that as a weapon to explore these different pockets of existence.’
This hallmarked time on the Music Channel has become a staple, and one of the most loved by the Soho Radio community.
It’s an eclectic brand of taste but has become a brand all the same; Soul Jazz Records has managed to create a name for itself, despite, or maybe thanks to, its breadth and depth of interest.
The label’s fluidity between genres is what has kept them relevant throughout the years and a trusted source for those looking for the next wave of musical exploration; whether that be a new leaf or stepping back to revive a period of the past.
Soho is the only place where I feel at home. I like the fact that everyone can be different and be accepted for who they are.
As one of the most well respected record labels around, Soul Jazz Records have made it their mission to preserve the music that needs to be remembered, both for the sound and the history of the people behind it, and so far it’s been a success.
Originally from Bromley, Baker says he always knew he would end up in Soho. ‘Soho is the only place where I feel at home. I like the fact that everyone can be different and be accepted for who they are.’
It’a hard to deny that living and working in Soho wouldn’t have an impact on your cultural preferences. And as Bakers cultural expression of choice is music, visiting Sounds of the Universe, buying a Soul Jazz Record, or tuning into Soho Radio on a Saturday morning is like sampling from the musical platter of the world.
What a tasting plate.