POP MUSIC / Showing their roots: Guru's Jazzmatazz - Bristol University

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The Independent Online
Baden-Powell, you feel, would like rap gigs. There's a strong all-boys-together feeling, with lots of martial music and community singing.

What he'd make of this jazz-rap thing who knows, but there certainly seems to be a healthy respect for the elderly. 'Word up]' Guru said at the start of the Bristol show, 'Dr Donald Byrd's in the house.' And the audience roared its approval. The Doctor (PhD, Columbia, 1971), ex-Art Blakey Messenger and jazz-funk pioneer, played the opening trumpet notes of the Jazzmatazz album intro and then waved his arms in the air like everyone else.

Courtney Pine was in the house, too, slapping five with Guru, though the rest of the promised special guests never materialised. What we were left with was Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), his fellow rapper Big Shug, a backing singer and a turntable operative. 'The decks is my roots,' said Guru, as if in apology for the lack of a rhythm section.

Though the show started out fine, after 20 minutes or so it felt as though they had said all they had to say.

The tunes from the album are catchy, and a semblance of visual spectacle was provided by two video screens relaying terminally strobed pictures from a live camcorder crew, but the mechanics of a rap gig do not accommodate improvisation easily.

Live, without real bass and drums to massage the beat, the numbers tended to start and finish on the same (usually hysterical) key. But Pine, as always, was a star.

A lack-lustre version of 'Jazz Thing' ended the performance. At least, it seemed to; but, as Guru and crew left the stage, the sound system continued to play and the crowd kept dancing, seeming not to care whether there was anyone providing the entertainment, or only the ghost of a machine twitching rhythmically to itself, like a chicken with its head cut off.

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