Guru’s Jazzmatazz Revisited

Posted: 23/02/2014 in Album Review
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In the early 00s I didn’t know very much about jazz  but into Gang Starr. So I gave Guru’s Jazzmatazz a go.

‘Highly unimpressed’ would be a fair appraisal. Cheesy singing, pointless noodling and Guru’s rather one dimensional delivery do not comfortable bedfellows make.

I thought I’d give it another spin now I know a lot about jazz.  Still ‘highly unimpressed’, but for completely different reasons.

Decent jazz – i.e. early 50s to late 60s – is instrumental, which completely compromises the entire rap crossover concept of Jazzmatazz and makes the singing not only cheesy but culturally distorted. Hip-hop, the central muse here, is derived from funk. Jazz flirted with funk in the 70s but that was ‘fusion’. Miles Davis aside, fusion is widely considered a bad idea and again, not wholly jazz. The solos on Jazzmatazz still feel like noodling, which they don’t in actual jazz. You wouldn’t normally have an instrument soloing while there are vocals – twatty guitarists in rock notwithstanding. This doesn’t buck the trend. Guru still sounds monotonous and slightly uncomfortable. Braggadocio is a key theme in hip-hip. Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it ruins a lot of tracks, but it is also necessary to create a natural flow.

Now I do understand it is “an experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz”, it just doesn’t work. That is a terrifically pretentious thing to do. Which is fine, why not get a bit pretentious? You just need a bit of intellectual weight to back it up.

Later volumes include Craig David, Courtney Pine and Wynton Marsalis, god rest our weary souls.

Also, given how socially conscious Guru was, why was his band called “Gang Starr”?


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