Of the multitude of album and band anniversary tours seemingly all the rage these days, this one leapt right out of the page.
The late rapper Guru’s seminal ‘Jazzmatazz’ recordings first appeared 25 years ago last autumn, an eclectic fusion of hip-hop and live jazz, the Brooklyn-based rapper enlisting the help of a collective of influential associates including Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Courtney Pine, Carleen Anderson, MC Solaar and DC Lee, creating a delightfully chilled sound without losing any impact of more hard-hhitting rap records of the era, proving similarly popular in Europe due to the jazz renaissance of the 1990s.
To celebrate the silver anniversary, London-based jazztronica duo Blue Lab Beats, namely Nk-Ok on electronics and Mr.DM on piano and guitars, clearly disciples of this fine recording sought the collaboration of like-minded fellow musicians to reimagine the material for a new audience, proving a sell-out live draw.
Buoyed by this success, they’re back touring a twin-set show delivering original BLB material including recent album ‘Xover’ followed by the Jazzmatazz classics in the second set.
First up, it’s just the duo on stage performing tracks from last year’s release ‘Xover’ and although it goes down a storm to the converted, I’m feeling a little underwhelmed as first impressions imply a bunch of chill-out jazz instrumentals, the infectious groove of ‘Pineapple’ arguably the stand out track. However on further listening, the album proves a real grower, with plenty of assured hip-hop largely absent from tonight’s set making it a piece of two halves.
The second half begins with the unmistakable sax intro to ‘Transit Ride’, the duo now augmented by male and female vocal, sax and trumpet. The tempo increases markedly as we sweep effortlessly into the slinky ‘Feel the Music’ the duo good to their word, including material from volumes two and three.
For most though it’s probably about the former Gang Starr’s first Jazzmatazz foray as ‘Take a Look at Yourself’, ‘Loungin’’ and the irresistible ‘No Time to Play’ still sound as fantastic as the day they were cut in the studio and whilst ‘When You’re Near’, ‘Le Bien, Le Mal’ and ‘Sights in The City’ were absent tonight, it was thrilling to be reacquainted with these wonderful tunes and more after subsequently plundering the still amazing sounding Jazzmatazz back catalogue.
Rest in peace Guru, your splendid body of work lives on.