Guru, Roy Ayers, & Donald Byrd Brought Jazzmatazz to Life in This 1993 Performance (Video)
Beginning in 1993, Guru released a string of albums as a solo artist, spreading the wings he sprouted with DJ Premier in Gang Starr and exploring his deep love for live instrumentation. That departure resulted in four volumes of Jazzmatazz, a body of work which includes contributions from Erykah Badu, Bahamadia, Blackalicious, Bilal, Chaka Khan, Common, Slum Village, and many other guest vocalists. But the real magic lived in the relationship Guru forged with the musicians who were so often sampled in Hip-Hop, some of whom included Isaac Hayes, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ronny Jordan, Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Liston Smith, and many others.
On 1993’s Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1, the tremendous talents of Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd were included. On vibraphone and trumpet & piano, respectively, the two legendary musicians had in the past created works that Heads may not have even realized they knew. Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” Souls of Mischief’s “What a Way to Go Out,” and Jungle Brothers’s “Acknowledge Your Own History” are just a few of the records to have sampled Ayers by 1993, and in the years since, a plethora of Hip-Hop producers have explored the prodigious Funk, Soul, and Jazz composer and vibraphonist’s work. Byrd was best known as a Jazz and R&B trumpet player, but his true virtuosity lay in his ability to bridge Funk and Soul with Bebop, and his extensive work as a sideman makes him a presence on many of the records being dug for in the crates.
Together, Ayers and Byrd joined Guru on stage for a 1993 performance at SOBs, the legendary New York City venue which continues to operate today. Along with Boston MC and Gang Starr affiliate Big Shug, the three men provided lucky attendees with a live rendition of Vol. 1, and while the footage is in black and white, the colors of the music are no less vibrant. In the 12-minute video, Guru can be seen performing as the front man, flanked by a handful of tremendous musicians including Ayers and Byrd. As an eclectic and inter-generational collective, the guys perform “Down the Backstreets,” “Loungin’,” and “Sights in the City.”
Earlier this year, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 was re-issued on vinyl, which Heads can pick up from Fat Beats. Rest in power Guru and Donald Byrd.