Guru – “The Experimental Fusion of Hip-Hop and Jazz”

Loungin'

Unfortunately, one of the greatest American rap and hip-hop MCs died this month. Guru was an extraordinary rapper. He was both gritty and smooth. He rose to fame rhyming for the famed rap group Gang Starr. The old school rap duo featured Guru on the mic and DJ Premieron the turntables.  I was a big fan of Gang Starr. And I followed Guru into his solo work, especially the first Jazzmatazz album. If you haven’t heard of Gang Starr check out their songs “Blowin’ Up The Spot” and “Full Clip.”

Guru was one of those rappers that kept in touch with the roots of his craft. I often saw him on the local cable network in Austin, visiting recreational centers in East Austin. He got kids involved in the hip hip culture on the ground level. He was definitely a grassroots artists. A man who explored the musical world from the bottom up and not from the top down. This viewpoint gave his music real soulpower.

Keith Elam aka Guru will probably be most remembered for his multi-volume Jazzmatazz collaborations with famed jazz and pop music artists. The first Jazzmatazz album was an instant classic. Jazz artists like Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, Branford Marsalis, and Lonnie Liston Smith joined Guru for a fusion of jazz and hip hop. Guru explored this blend creating genius tracks like “Loungin’.'” Another one of my favorite songs on this album is the cut “No Time To Play” with Ronny Jordanand Dee C. Lee. The track “Le Bien, Le Mal” mixes rap and jazz music as well as French and English lyrics. The French rapper Mc Solaar shared the mic with Guru on this cutting-edge experimental Franco-American rap-jazz tune.

Guru fused rap with a diversity of sounds and artists through his Jazzmatazz collection, performing with such notable musicians as Ini Kamoze, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, the Roots, Junior Reid, Les Nubians, and Herbie Hancock. From rap to  jazz to R&B to reggae this rapper crossed musical boundaries and set new trends.

Guru made substantial inroads into the reggae genre as well, especially on a collaboration with Stephen Marley. Marley and Guru reworked the Bob Marley classic “Johnny Was” into a beautiful mix of rap and reggae music on the album Chant Down Babylon. And check out the killer hit on the album Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger – Back To The Future entitled “Stand Up (Some Things’ll Never Change)” with the talented dancehall wordsmith Damian Marley.


Guru – “The Experimental Fusion of Hip-Hop and Jazz”

Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas

Today I attended the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas. The location of the festival is a couple of blocks from the downtown square in Denton. This spot was originally an African-American neighborhood called Quakertown. Today Quakertown is a park where the people of Denton celebrate art and jazz music on the greens of the park and its surrounding facilities.

Denton has become a center of art, jazz culture, and music, especially since the University of North Texas’s music and art schools excel at honing the talents of countless musicians and artists. In fact the music and art schools are the crown jewels at the university. At the UNT showcase stage aspiring eagles played for large audiences, and many UNT talents appeared on the main jazz stage, such as the UNT Faculty Band and the UNT One O’Clock Lab Band.

Early in the day I saw Fortified Funk playing some classic jazz tunes from the Wes Montgomerycatalog. The trombonist in this band was laying it down. After eating some festival food I caught a portion of Island Boogie banging on steel drums. Then I crossed the festival bridge to see Dave Zoller leading his tribute band to Duke Ellington.  I got to admit this was a highlight in the festival for me because I enjoy swing music from the big band era. Plus this tribute band was full of top-notch musicians, including a horn section with trombone, coronet, saxophone, and trumpets.

Then I flipped the script and saw the local indie rock band Oso Closo at the Bud Light Courtyard Stage. This was a talented band. Both guitarists also played keys, displaying their versatility. The bassist sang, and so did the two guitarists. And all three vocalists sang together. The guitar work was good and the vocal harmonies very nice.

Later in the evening I saw contemporary jazz artist Tom Braxton. The saxophonist is a smooth jazz staple as seen in such songs as “Open Road.” The Dallas-based Braxton, actually from the Lubbock area, played several tracks from his album Endless Highway. I especially like his cover of the America song “Ventura Highway.”

The festival’s headliners Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton brought the house down with some Classic Blues. Barton has played music with Jimmie Vaughan for a long time. In fact she toured with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Jimmie played the SRV classic “Texas Flood.” Lou Ann Barton joined Jimmie Vaughan for some intensely soulful tunes and a rockin’ version of “Boom Bapa Boom.”

Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas

The River Why

Last week I got to see the world premier of the film The River Why at the Dallas International Film Festival. The movie is based on the book The River Why by David James Duncan. Duncan is a famed environmental and philosophical fiction writer that weaves fantastic narratives about fishing, religion, and baseball. Duncan should be a staple of American literature. Not only is the River Why an amazing read, but so is the heart-wrenching The Brothers K, an excellent work set in the Vietnam War era.

For the most part, it is common knowledge that the book is always better than the movie. This is the case for The River Why, but that does not mean the filmmakers failed. Quite the contrary, the movie version of The River Why is really good. The film captured many of the philosophical underpinnings of the book. The book leaves the natural world to one’s imagination. Whereas the movie brings the wonderful nature of an Oregon river basin alive. My advice would be to read the book and see the movie.

The River Why

The Best Albums of April 2010

The Best of Albums of April 2010

  1. GentlemanDiversity [Universal 2010]
  2. Lloyd Brown For Your Consideration [Cousins 2009]
  3. Various Artists – Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: The Songs of John Prine [Oh Boy Records 2010]
  4. The VillagersBecoming a Jackal [Domino 2010]
  5. Damien Jurado Saint Bartlett [2010]
  6. Wedding Dub Sounds of Reality [Control Tower 2010]
  7. Naptali Long Journey [Oneness Records 2010]
  8. Vybz Kartel Pon Di Gaza 2.0 [Explicit] [Tad’s 2010]
  9. Various Artists Surfer Rhythm [Surfer 2010]
  10. Junior Kelly Red Pond[VP Records 2010]
  11. Great American Taxi Reckless Habits [Great American Taxi Records 2010]
  12. Tracey Thorn Love and Its Opposite [Kill Rock Stars 2010]
  13. The NationalHigh Violet [4AD Records 2010]
  14. Midnite What Makes A King? [African Roots Lab 2010]
  15. The Black KeysBrothers [Nonesuch Reocrds 2010]
  16. The Mynabirds What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood [Saddle Creek Records 2010]
  17. StarsThe Five Ghosts [2010]
  18. Josh Ritter So Runs The World Away [2010]
  19. Chukki Starr Most Wanted[Greensleeves 2010]
  20. Reckless Kelly Somewhere In Time [Famous Motel Cowboy Music 2010]
  21. Natty King Born To Be Free [DHF Records 2010]
  22. Flying Lotus Cosmogramma [2010]
  23. Jonsi Go [XL 2010]
  24. Ken Will Morton True Grit [Sojourn 2010]
  25. Horse Feathers Thistled Spring [2010]
  26. The New Pornographers Together [Matador 2010]
  27. Shelby Lynne Tears, Lies, And Alibis [Everso 2010]
  28. Red Molly James [Self 2010]
  29. Linfinity Martian’s Bloom [2010]
  30. Hanoi JanesYear of Panic [Captured Tracks 2010]
  31. Gayngs The Gaudy Side of Town [Jagjaguwar 2010]
  32. Laurie Anderson Homeland [2010]
The Best Albums of April 2010

The World of Reggae Music Collection: Reggae Sisters

REGGAE SISTERS

In this edition of the World of Reggae Music Collection the selector explores the women of Reggae Music.

The I-Threes – Many Are Called

Marcia Griffiths – Steppin’ Out of Babylon

Judy Mowatt – Black Woman

Rita Marley – Harambe

Tanya Stephens – Handle The Ride

Spice – Like A Man

Althea – Down Town Thing

China – Cherry Garden

Cherine Anderson – Talk If Yuh Talking

Jah9 – Warning

Sister Carol – Dread Natty Congo

Natasja – Op Med Hovendet

Queen Ifrica – Far Away

Donna Hinds – Run Away Pet

Tanya Stephens – Boom Wuk

Lady Saw – Man Haffi Mind Wi

Foxy Brown & Sizzla – Come Fly With Me

Ce’Cile – Ride or Die

Kim Swain – Here We Come

Etana – Trigger

Louisa Mark – Keep It Like It Is

Tanya Stephens – Big Heavy  Gal

Shelly Thunder – Kuff

Queen Omega – Traveling

Easy Star All Stars – First Light (Dubmatix Remix)

Nadine Sutherland –Teach The Youth

Marcia Griffiths – Feel Like Jumping

Pam Hall – You’ve Caught Me Baby

Rita Marley & The Soulettes – Why Should I

Lady Saw – Been So Long

Sister Carol – International Style

Etana – 4 Play 2 Love (Start over)

Diana King – I’m Still In Love With You

Lady Patra – Ambition

Easy Star All-Stars – In The Light

Joya Landis – Moonlight Lover

Hortense Ellis – Jah Mysterious Works

Sister Carol – Down In the Ghetto

Joyce Bond – Help Me Make It Through The Night

Marcia Aitken – Narrow Minded Man

Lady G – Perform

Tanya Stephens – Freaky Type

Senya – Children Of The Ghetto

Marcia Griffiths & Lady Saw – Unconditional Love

Lady Saw – No Less Than A Woman

Dhaima – Inna Jah Children

Sister Carol – Me Come Back

Cecile – Ladies in the Club

Shan I-Benjamen – Look After Your Structure

Mad Professor – Structure Dub

Tanya Stephens – Bounce Me

Tessanne Chin – Firework

Mekeda – Real Love

Easy Star All Stars – First Light (Ramblin’ Fever)

Sasha – Kill The Bitch

Marcia Griffits & Queen Ifrica – Round and Round

Easy Star All Stars – Break Of Dawn

Tanya Stephens – Addiction

Tessane Chin – Broken Hearted Melody

Jazmine Sullivan – Need U Bad

Barbara Paige – Babylon Must Fall

Cecile – Hot Like Dat

Easy Star All-Stars – Universal Law

Aysha Loren – Keep It Like It Is

Hortense Ellis – Unexpected Places

Alaine – Another Love Song

Queen Ifrica – Dance Floor

Marcia Griffiths – Children at Play

Lady Apache – Bruk Buddy

Easy Star All-Stars – All The Way

Tanya Stephens – Need You Tonight

Tessanne Chin – Hide Away

Cecile – Rise Up

Alaine – You Are Me

Joy White – It Dread Out Deh

Easy Star All-Stars – Demons

Queen Ifrica – Love Is The Only Solution

Alaine – Bye Bye Bye

Worl-A-Girl – Murder He Wrote

Phyllis Dillon – Tell Me You Love Me (All The Time)

Melinda Slack & Lee “Scratch” Perry – Want A Grine

Cecile – Woot Woot

Shontelle – Focus Pon Me

Lady Flame – Grab It Up

NEED

Lady SawI’ve Got Your Man

Sister Nancy Dance Pon The Corner

Tanya StephensWho Is Tanya

Rita Marley & Bob Marley Hold On To This Feeling

Susan CadoganBaby I Love You

Althea & Donna – Gone To Negril

Dawn Penn, Tommy McCook, and the Supersonic Band Why Did You Lie

Lady Saw – Wildest Ride

Phyllis DillonPerfidia

Judy Mowatt & the Gaylettes – I Like Your World

The Webber Sisters My World

Marlene Webber – Hard Life

The Neutral Sisters – Dance Fever

Barbara Jones – Come and Get Some

J.C. LodgeWhat The World Needs Now

Audrey Hall Woman In Love

Norma Fraser – First Cut Is The Deepest

Ivy Queen Regge Respect

Lady G Nuff Respect

Ms. Dynamite Natural High (Interlude) [Explicit]

Ms. Dynamite Dy-Na-Mi-Tee

Pam HallSweetest Sound

SashaCoca Cola Shape (dat Sexy Body Remix)

Fiona – Yours Tonight

Etana – Happy Heart

Lady Saw Give Me The Reason

Phyllis DillonNice Time

Paulette Williams – My Island

Foxy Brown Sorry

Sister Carol – Decadence

Deborah Glasgow Champion Lover

Tanya StephensTo The Rescue

The Neutral Sisters – Hold On

Chrissy D – Make It Real Good

EtanaCaltariba System

Sister NancyOne Two

Marlene Webber One Life To Live

Audrey HallOne Dance Won’t Do

Aisha – I Can’t Change

Foxy BrownBaby Can I Hold You Tonight

SashaDefensive

Angie Angel – Go Through Di Race

Barbara JonesLong And Lasting Love

Carlene DavisBaby Be True

The World of Reggae Music Collection: Reggae Sisters

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

I’ve been digging Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, especially the song “Home.” I really like Jade Castrinos’s voice. It is very unique and filled with soul. Another thing I like about this band is that they are a wonderful live act. They have an organic sound that harkens back to the sixties. I have an image of them in my mind as a group of wandering gipsy hippies, playing music because they love music.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

The Best Albums of March 2010

The Best Albums of March 2010

I listened to a lot of music this month. I caught some of the South By Southwest festivities this month increasing my music intake. I have starred the albums directly related to my SXSW experience.

  1. She & HimVolume Two [Merge Records 2010]*
  2. Romain Virgo Introducing? Romain Virgo [VP Records 2010]
  3. Brooklyn Rider Dominant Curve [In A Circle 2010]*
  4. Solo Banton Walk Like Rasta [Reality Shock 2009]
  5. GyptianRevelations [VP Records 2010]
  6. Various ArtistsRagga Ragga Ragga 2010[VP Records 2010]
  7. Various Artists Police In Helicopter Riddim [Necessary Mayhem 2009 and 2010]
  8. Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh [Universal Motown 2010]
  9. JonsiGo [XL 2010]
  10. Various Artists Best of Bangers R Mashed: Volume Two [Bangers 2010]
  11. Wedding Dub Steppactivism [Sounds Around France 2010]
  12. Surfer Blood Astro Coast [Kanine Records 2010]*
  13. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is! [Lost Highway 2009]*
  14. Black Joe Lewis & the HoneybearsBlack Joe Lewis & The Honeybears [Lost Highway 2009]*
  15. CALLmeKAT – I’m In A Polaroid, Where Are You? [Playground Music 2008]*
  16. Visqueen Message To Garcia [Local 638 Records 2009]*
  17. Adam Carroll & Michael O’ConnerHard Times [Self 2010]
  18. Method Man, Ghostface Killah, & Raekwon Wu Massacre [Island Def Jam 2010]
  19. Joanna Newsom Have One On Me[Drag City 2010]
  20. Vadoinmessico – Vadoinmessico – Ep [Vadoinmessico 2009]*
  21. Bright Light Social Hour Back and Forth [Bright Light Social Hour 2009]*
  22. Timber Timbre Timber Timbre [Arts & Crafts 2010]*
  23. Freelance Whales Weathervanes [Mom & Pop 2009]*
  24. Joe Pug Messenger [Lightning Rod 2010]
  25. Local Natives Gorilla Manor [Frenchkiss 2010]*
  26. E-40 Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift [Heavy on the Grind 2010]
  27. The Band of Heathens One Foot In The Ether [BOH Records 2009]*
  28. The Daze – Straightjacket Hymns [The Daze 2009]*
  29. Speak Hear Here [EP] [Playing in Traffic 2010]*
  30. Gil Scott-Heron I’m New Here [XL 2010]
  31. Band of Skulls Baby Darling Doll Face Honey [Shangri-La Music 2009]*
  32. Natalie Merchant Leave Your Sleep [Nonesuch 2010]
  33. John Hiatt The Open Road[New West 2010]
  34. Texas Tornadoes Esta Bueno [Bismeaux 2010]
  35. Ludacris – Battle Of The Sexes [Disturbing the Peace 2010]
  36. The Minor Prophets Oscar [Single] [The Minor Prophets 2010]
  37. Mother Falcon Still Life [Mother Falcon 2010]*
The Best Albums of March 2010