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Guru
The Best Of Guru's Jazzmatazz
Virgin Records
www.gurusjazzmatazz.net


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.

-Embo Blake

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