Personnel: Guru (rap vocals); Big Shug, Black Jack, Mickey "Mus Mus," The Cutthroats (vocals); Zachary Breaux (guitar); Gary Barnacle (saxophone, flute); Simon Law (keyboards); DJ Jazzy Nice, DJ Jimmy Jay (scratches); Lil' Dap (drums).
Engineers include: Joe Quinde, Craig Marcus, Kieran Walsh.
Recorded at D&D Studios, New York, New York. Includes liner notes by Bill Adler.
As half of the pioneering duo Gang Starr, Guru can count himself among a select handful of innovators (DJ Jazzy Jeff, Stetsasonic, Native Tongues) who in the late '80s introduced jazz's tonal complexity into the hip-hop universe. It makes a certain amount of sense then, that his solo debut is actually a series of collaborations with various jazz artists. Although retro by design (the packaging makes use of the classic Blue Note graphic style), and regressive in it's violation of hip-hop's "maximum effect/minimum means" law of production values, JAZZMATAZZ nonetheless opened up a space for a progressive interplay between hip-hop and jazz.
The man who picked DJ Premier out of a stack of anonymous demos in the Wild Pitch offices hadn't lost his ear for choosing musical conspirators and here he draws on the talents of fusion legends like Roy Ayers and trumpet virtuoso Donald Byrd. Despite their august presence, some of the disc's strongest moments showcase younger artist like Paris-based MC Solaar and his DJ Jimmy Jay (Le Bien Le Mal), Brand New Heavies vocalist N'Dea Davenport on "Trust Me," and Courtney Pine on "Sights in the City."
Rolling Stone (6/24/93, p.83) - 3.5 Stars - Very Good - "...JAZZMATAZZ dishes up a pottage of fat jazz rhythms set off by message-oriented lyrics...proves that given the proper chemistry, a marriage of opposites can create a new union that stands independent and proud in a league of its own..."
Spin (6/93, p.82) - Highly Recommended - "...The album slides along as if it's on ball bearings...a noble and successful effort, an album that, like the sexy-sweet relationship jazz and hip hop enjoy, is easy to get into, and hard to pull yourself away from..."
Q (8/93, p.92) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...Guru may be heavily steeped in the jazz tradition but his roots are in hip hop, with the result that...JAZZMATAZZ delivers on the rap front..."
Down Beat (6/93, p.38) - 3.5 Stars - Good Plus
The Source (5/93, p.72) - "...solid, innovative and relaxed variations on jazz and hip-hop. This should also silence those who mistakenly believe that rap is not musical..."
Musician (6/93, p.89) - "...offers his audience a chance to hear some talented players as artists in their own right, not just fodder for somebody else's samples..."