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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


320 KBPS

Though it can reasonably be argued that rap grew almost directly out of funk and its particular beat, there are a lot of overlaps with jazz, particularly the bop and post-bop eras: the uninhibited expression, the depiction of urban life, just to name two. Jazz samples have also had a large role in hip-hop, but the idea of rapping over actual live jazz wasn't truly fully realized until Gang Starr MC Guru created and released the first in his Jazzmatazz series in 1993, with guest musicians who included saxophonist Branford Marsalis (who had previously collaborated with DJ Premier and Guru for the track "Jazz Thing" on the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack), trumpeter Donald Byrd, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, guitarist Ronny Jordan, and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as vocalist N'Dea Davenport (also of the acid jazz group the Brand New Heavies) and French rapper MC Solaar. While Guru's rhymes can occasionally be a little weak ("Think they won't harm you? Well they might/And that ain't right, but every day is like a fight" are the lines he chooses to describe kids on the subway in Brooklyn in "Transit Ride"), he delves into a variety of subject matter, from the problems of inner-city life to his own verbal prowess to self-improvement without ever sounding too repetitive, and his well-practiced flow fits well with the overall smooth, sultry, and intelligent feel of the album. From Jordan's solo on "No Time to Play" to Ayers' vibes expertise on "Take a Look (At Yourself)" to MC Solaar's quick and syllabic rhymes on "Le Bien, le Mal," Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (and what turned out to be the best of the series) is a rap album for jazz fans and a jazz album for rap fans, skillful and smart, clean when it needs to be and gritty when that's more effective, helping to legitimize hip-hop to those who doubted it, and making for an altogether important release.
(On February 28, 2010, Guru went into cardiac arrest and, following surgery, fell into a coma. He woke from the coma but died on April 19, 2010, after a long battle with cancer. R.I.P.)

1. Introduction
2. Loungin' (Featuring Donald Byrd)
3. When You're Near (Featuring N'Dea Davenport)
4. Transit Ride (Featuring Branford Marsalis)
5. No Time To Play (Featuring Ronny Jordan and D.C. Lee)
6. Down The Backstreets (Featuring Lonnie Liston Smith)
7. Respectful Dedications
8. Take A Look (At Yourself) (Featuring Roy Ayers)
9. Trust Me (Featuring N'Dea Davenport)
10. Slicker Than Most (Featuring Gary Barnacle)
11. Le Bien, Le Mal (Featuring Mc Solaar)
12. Sights In The City (Featuring Carleen Anderson And Courtney Pine)

1 comment:

Swingster said...

Great post. R.I.P Guru. Thanks for the love.