Music Features

Guru's Jazzmatazz: Live at Arena Lounge, Lisbon Casino

ARENA LOUNGE, LISBON CASINO - The expectant crowd is sitting at rotating tables on a huge version of a mechanical merry-go-round which rotates around a center. Guru and the 7 Grand Players enter the podium to raucous applause, starting off with a smooth introductory jazz hip hop beat and presentation by producer Solar.

The album series Jazzmatazz has four albums. Starting with Vol. 1 in 1993, Guru made the leap from hip hop to jazz, and with the collaboration of jazz artists was able to fuse the jazz sonority with beats. The setup before me is comprised of a CDJ turntable manned by DJ DooWop, a piano synthesizer, soprano saxophone, guitar and flute all played by David Scott, Brownman on the trumpet and, of course, MC's Guru and Superproducer Solar.

No Time to Play
follows with a reference to earlier collaborator Donald Byrd before Loungin kicks off. Between songs there's always an emphasis on crowd participation. Guru gets the crowd to scream "New York!" and "The Real Hip-Hop!" in unison, bringing the energy levels to alpine heights. When questioned about the jazz influence of their music, DJ DooWop credited MC Solar on the production of the album and technical aspects of composition. The instrumental is truly remarkable; obviously a tremendous amount of time was put into the chord progression, solos, beats from the turntable and dynamics. In your face lyrics, clear messages, soothing jazz and funky beats.

Infectious and incisive, the MC's move into political ground, declaring "Feed the hungry, house the poor, save the babies, stop the war."
When I asked if he participated in the United States 2008 election, DJ DooWop responded "Of course I did!"

Guru is half of the hip hop group Gang Starr, with DJ Premier, and he produced most of his Jazzmatazz and Gang Starr tracks. He founded the label 7 Grand with producer Solar and released Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip-Hop Jazz Messenger: Back To The Future in 2007. While I was used to listening to Jazzmatazz albums on relaxed afternoons, the performance was unexpectedly a high energy, impressive, two-hour riot.