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Jazzmatazz is not only the latest pairing [of jazz and hip-hop], but easily one of the best… This should silence those who mistakenly feel that rap is not musical… deep instrumentals, relevant lyrics and a lot of attitude.” – The Source, Ronin Ro [May 1993 issue]


20 APRIL 2018 (Toronto, ON) – In 1993, hip-hop and jazz had been dancing together for at least a half-decade, and many would argue a lot longer. Plowing through initial tension between the two worlds, Stetsasonic’s “Talkin’ All That Jazz” 1988 single was perhaps the first overt attempt to merge the artforms. The song itself was a response to jazz musician James Mtume, who had previously disparaged rap artists (as the song went, “You said it wasn’t art / So now we’re gonna rip you apart”). For a time, there was an uneasy accord between the unique and rebellious forms of African-American expression.


By the first turn of the 1990s, groups like Gang Starr were regularly sampling jazz, executed at a nearly pinnacle level on their songs “Words I Manifest” and “Jazz Thing”, from 1989 and 1990, respectively – the latter taken from Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues” soundtrack. Jazz and hip-hop had co-existed long before Stetsasonic’s work in 1988 (two examples being Herbie Hancock’s 1983 smash song and video for “Rockit”, featuring pioneering DJ D. ST; and the evocative jazz trumpet work on LL Cool J’s 1987 hit, “Going Back To Cali”), but other producers and groups soon appeared in larger numbers to re-create the synergy, from Showbiz and Digable Planets to Q-Tip and the Dream Warriors. And, of course, Gang Starr expertly stayed in that lane.


By late 1992, Gang Starr’s MC Guru was ready to take the “jazz thing” to the next level. Beyond merely sampling an artist or hiring them for a session, he set about conceptualizing full collaborations – a true synergy of the two musics, with MCs and jazz players working together from jump.


Of course, this wasn’t done in a vacuum. By the early ‘90s, London was abuzz with these types of possibilities (in the pre-Acid Jazz days) and in New York, club nights like Giant Step were all the rage. So, when the lyricist who born Keith Elam pitched the idea of Jazzmatazz Volume 1 to the good people at Chrysalis / EMI, he didn’t meet much resistance. His smoky, laid-back flow had already established itself as a perfect compliment to the tempos and outlook of “America’s Classical Music”, and his musician rolodex had been expanding since “Jazz Thing”.


As Guru told Bill Adler in the album’s liner notes, “[My father and grandfather would] take me and my whole posse and sit us down in front of these speakers and make us listen to jazz.” There is little doubt that those original listening sessions included some of the same older artists featured on Jazzmatazz: Donald Byrd (heard on the single, “Loungin’”), Lonnie Liston Smith (“Down The Backstreets”), and Roy Ayers (“Take A Look (At Yourself)”).


But Jazzmatazz Volume 1 wasn’t a “dig up the old guys” project, not by a long shot. In addition to the aforementioned legends, Guru enlisted an impressive list of young jazz talent as well – guitarist Ronny Jordan runs some amazing lines on “No Time To Play”; saxophonist Branford Marsalis and guitarist Zachary Breaux anchor “Transit Ride”; Gary Barnacle’s sax and flute grace “Slicker Than Most”; and saxophonist Courtney Pine deftly finesses “Sights Of The City”.


Jazz artists weren’t the only ones who got in on the game – R&B vocalists N’Dea Davenport (featured on both “Trust Me” and “When You’re Near”), Carleen Anderson and DC Lee lent their incredible pipes to the project (the latter two on “Sights In The City” and “No Time To Play”, respectively). And French rapper MC Solaar gives “Le Bien, Le Mal” an international flair that only increased the album’s appeal.


Almost all of the tracks on the album went beyond mere session work or sample fodder for all involved – most of them were in fact co-produced by the guests, alongside Guru who oversaw the concepts. And, of course, Guru stepped out from the board to rhyme on all tracks himself.


Upon the album’s release, in addition to getting love from hip-hop fans, it also received a positive response amongst jazz writers and fans of all ages – the former was a crowd that was slower to accept the rap world. Jazzmatazz Volume 1 was a success around the world, and Guru toured behind it, incorporating his amazing jazz collaborators who stretched across generations.


25 years later, the album still sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1993. Sadly, Guru is not here with us to celebrate, as he passed away in 2010, but Jazzmatazz Volume 1 – and the sequels that followed throughout the ‘90s – remain a major part of his lasting legacy on the music world as a whole.


Presented for the first time as a deluxe, multi-album set, Jazzmatazz Volume 1  includes three LPs and a beautiful glossy booklet, featuring photos by Thierry Le Goues. The unique collection of instrumentals, rare remixes and B-Sides, is the ultimate way to celebrate a visionary project that changed the music world 25 years ago. Available now for pre-order with the inclusion of two instant grat tracks, “Loungin' (Square Biz Mix)” and “No Time To Play (CJ's Master Mix)”, Jazzmatazz Volume 1 is set to release on May 18 via Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company.


As Guru told liner notes scribe Bill Adler back in 1993: “It’s Jeep-ready. I tested it in the Jeep and the beats are there.” And, he added, “But at the same time, I can give this to my father and my godfather and I know they’re going to feel it.”


Jazzmatazz Volume 1 (Deluxe Edition) - Features:

  • 3-LPs (track list below) with unique LP sleeve artwork for each platter
  • Entire set is housed in a custom slipcase with new artwork
  • 12-page, 12” x 12” glossy booklet with photos by Thierry Le Goues
  • Audio included: original album, instrumentals and rare remixes and B-sides


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Jazzmatazz Volume 1 (Deluxe Edition) - Tracklist:


Side A

  1. Introduction
  2. Loungin’
  3. When You're Near (featuring Simon Law)
  4. Transit Ride (featuring Zachary Breaux)
  5. No Time To Play (featuring Ronnie Jordan)
  6. Down The Backstreets (featuring Lonnie Liston Smith)

Side B

  1. Respectful Dedication
  2. Take A Look (At Yourself) (featuring Roy Ayers)
  3. Trust Me
  4. Slicker Than Most
  5. Le Bien, Le Mal
  6. Sights In The City 


Side A

  1. Loungin’ (Instrumental)
  2. When You're Near (featuring Simon Law) (Instrumental)
  3. Transit Ride (featuring Zachary Breaux) (Instrumental)
  4. No Time To Play (featuring Ronnie Jordan) (Instrumental)
  5. Down The Backstreets (featuring Lonnie Liston Smith) (Instrumental)

Side B

  1. Take A Look (At Yourself) (featuring Roy Ayers) (Instrumental)
  2. Trust Me (Instrumental)
  3. Slicker Than Most (Instrumental)
  4. Le Bien, Le Mal (Instrumental)
  5. Sights In The City  (Instrumental)


Side A

  1. Loungin' (Square Biz Mix)
  2. Loungin' (Guru Meets The Professor Mix) (featuring Donald Byrd)
  3. Loungin' (Jazz Not Jazz Mix) (featuring Donald Byrd)
  4. No Time To Play (CJ's Master Mix) (featuring Ronnie Jordan and Dee C. Lee)

Side B

  1. Trust Me Trust Me (CJ's Master Mix) (featuring N’Dea Davenport)
  2. Season For Change (Ronnie Jordan featuring Guru)
  3. Season For Change (Dawn Of The Season Mix) (Ronnie Jordan featuring Guru)


About Universal Music Group’s “Urban Legends”

Urban Legends is a multi-platform website that honors the past 30 years of Universal Music Group's (UMG) urban catalogue. The label imprint and platform, which came to fruition in late 2017, celebrates the artists and music at the heart and soul of hip-hop, with commentary by noted music writers and the artists themselves.


Nobody forgets the album that changed their life—that one song that defined the moment. Urban Legends remembers and reimagines what it means to be a fan, helping music lovers fall in love with their favorites all over again. We celebrate our icons, our culture, our style, our legacy, our music—and why it matters.