Tuesday 26 March 2013

Jazzmatazz, Vol.1: 20 years old.

Incredibly, last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the release of Volume 1 Guru's Jazzmatazz series.  Hip-hop heads will know that Guru’s legacy in hip-hop had been established years ago throughout his much revered work with fellow Gang Starr affiliate, DJ Premier, as pioneers in the jazz-rap sound, clocking up an incredible body of work since 1989, with albums ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ (1989), ‘Step in the Arena’ (1991), ‘Daily Operation’ (1992), ‘Hard to Earn’ (1994), ‘Moment of Truth’ (1998) and ‘The Ownerz’ (2003).

The critical acclaim, the fan adoration and the peer respect the group amassed was, and still is, immeasurable.  For me, Guru was one of my first heroes in hip-hop, and, particularly through this Jazzmatazz series, I found myself wanting to expand my horizons and explore new styles of music.  While the basis of Gang Starr’s signature sound came from the maestro that is DJ Premier sampling vintage jazz records, Guru abandoned the sampling and recruited jazz musicians and artists like Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock and Ronny Jordan for a hip-hop/jazz fusion series that spanned 4 volumes.

‘Jazzmatazz’ was such a big deal to me when I discovered it and I consider it hugely inspirational – it sounds like a conventional thing to say, but that’s what great artists do: inspire.  Guru’s lyrics always hit me like an experienced older brother was educating me on the ups and downs of life, teaching about responsibilities, always encouraging us to strive for something better, and he had an impeccable sensitivity when he relayed his tales of street hardships.

It was announced 18th April 2010 that Guru (Keith Elam), one-half of legendary rap group Gang Starr, sadly passed away due to suffering from cancer over the past year.  He had suffered a heart attack in February and had been in a coma since that time.

It’s always difficult for anyone to lose someone who instils a passion in them, but in this case, it’s a wonderful thing that Guru’s efforts will not be forgotten.

On last week's show, we kicked it off with two songs from the album, including 'Loungin' (featuring Donald Byrd, which seemed an apt song to play coinciding with his recent and sad passing) and 'Sights in the City' (featuring Carleen Anderson and Courtney Pine).  Hopefully, if this project is new to you, the below will encourage some of you to explore the ‘Jazzmatazz’ work more extensively.

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