I was young and working at an independent record store when Guru
released his first collection of Jazzmatazz recordings.
I was no fan of jazz or hip hop then, and can barely stand it
any more now, but there was something in Guru's approach that
made the entire thing palatable. Perhaps it was the cool production,
the round-about psychedelic approach to the tunes, or simply that
this music had something great in it. Running parallel with the
acid-jazz genre's beginnings, I always felt that Guru was criminally
overlooked for the influence he was obviously having in the genres
of house, groove, and acid jazz.
The Best Of Guru's Jazzmatazz collects some of the great
tracks he has released over the years. It would be impossible
to put together all of the great tracks from the Jazzmatazz series,
you'd really just have to buy all the records themselves, but
the folks over at Virgin have done a fine job compiling a primer
for the series. It is fairly easy to see the influence and stretch
that Guru obtained with the Jazzmatazz series simply by looking
at the list of folks who contributed to tracks. N'Dea Davenport,
Lonnie Liston Smith, Chaka Khan, Branford Marsalis,
Mica Paris, and the list goes on.
The collection starts with the cool vinyl pops of "No Time
To Play", a track that is more jazz than hip-hop, recalling
those early years when rap was burgeoning into a more musical
form. The grooves are sweet, like the early PM Dawn recordings
and the great formative stuff that was happening in the very early
90's. N'Dea Davenport lends her great voice to the jazzy style
of "Trust Me" while Gary Barnacle joins in on
the more straightforward hip hop of "Slicker Than Most".
"Loungin'" features the incomparable Donald Byrd,
and sounds like US3's cover of Herbie Hancock's
"Cantaloupe Island" with its brilliant horn lines and
mid-tempo groove. Jazzmatazz Volume II delivered a bit
more in the hip hop arena and less in the jazz, including great
tracks featuring Jamiroquai ("Lost Souls") and
Mica Paris ("Looking Through Darkness"). From the incredible
Jazzmatazz: Streetsoul record The Roots contribute
the incendiary "Lift Your Fist" and Erykah Badu
lends her voice to the inspiring and sparse "Plenty."
Tacked onto the end of the compilation are some remixes, including
a cool slur-beat take on "Loungin'" that is a little
rougher on the beat than the original, but just as groovy. Also
included is a great slowed down vibe on the Buckwild Remix of
the incredible "Respect The Architect."
Whether you have heard Jazzmatazz before and need a reminder
of just how cool the music is, or this is your first exposure
to the cool hip hop/jazz hybrid, The Best Of Guru's Jazzmatazz
is a great primer to get you interested or re-interested. The
tracks are well chosen and truly demonstrate the breadth of power
and musicality that has made Guru one of the most influential
makers in the triphop/hip hop/acid jazz scene. Dig it.
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