A couple days ago the Washerman’s Dog posted an album of Indian music called Gurus in Collaboration. That got me thinking about the original Guru who lived for Collaboration. Keith Edward Elam was an innovative early hip hop artist who spent much of his career as one half of the duo that was Gang Starr. Though Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) had a hit and miss career as far as popular and critical success goes, he had significant influence on the development of the genre and never shied away from pushing the envelope of collaboration and experimentation.
The connections between hip hop and jazz have often been noted. I remember in the very early days of ‘rap’ music reading an interview with Miles Davis who flagged the form as having the potential to be as significant as jazz on the American and global music scene. In fact, he saw it as the next logical step of the development of jazz. And you only need to listen to the music of Gil Scott Heron to hear how neatly the two styles can be blended.
Yet before Guru released Jazzamatazz Vol 1 in 1993 very little direct collaboration (as opposed to sampling) between jazz musicians and hip hop artists had been put to record. Guru brought together a French DJ (MC Solaar), a singer from an acid jazz vocalist (N’Dea Davenport) and a swag of top shelf jazz men (Donald Byrd on trumpet, Brandon Marsalis on trombone, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith and Ronny Jordan) to create a truly unique musical experience. In away this intelligent elegant record made hip hop ‘ok’ for jazz fans and vice versa. It is a great record and was followed by irregularly with Vol 2 and 3 but those never achieved the impact of this initial collection.
Sadly, Guru passed away a year ago at the tender age of 43.
02. Loungin’ (Feat. Donald Byrd)
03. When You’re Near (Feat. N’dea Davenport)
04. Transit Ride (Feat. Branford Marsalis)
05. No Time to Play (Feat. Ronny Jordan and Dee. C. Lee)
06. Down the Backstreets (Feat. Lonnie Liston Smith)
07. Respectful Dedications
08. Take a Look at Yourself (Feat. Roy Ayers)
09. Trust Me (Feat. N’dea Davenport)
10. Slicker than Most (Feat. Gary Barnacle)
11. Le Bein, Le Mal (Feat. MC Solaar)
12. Sights of the City (Feat. Courtney Pine)