Guru's "Jazzmatazz" Re-imagined
Blue Lab Beats headlined two sold out shows at the Jazz Cafe in Camden with their re-presentation of the late Guru's "Jazzmatazz" collaborative albums. In this interview in Blues and Soul magazine, from May 2009, Guru said:
"When I first came up with the Jazzmatazz concept - I was noticing how a lot of cats were digging in the crates and sampling jazz breaks to make hip hop records", he explains, "But, while I thought that was cool, I wanted to take it to the next level and actually create a new genre, by getting the actual dudes we were sampling into the studio to jam over hip hop beats with some of the top vocalists of the time. You know, the whole thing was experimental, but I knew it was an idea that would spawn some historic music. So, though everyone at first was like, "Where does it fit in?", I was like, "It doesn't NEED to fit in! It fits in with ITSELF!". And that's how it became a leader, in terms of influencing other things. Because, as it evolved, I was able to add elements of R&B, soul, funk, reggae, rap - all on to the original base of hip hop and jazz".
Blue Lab Beats, a duo formed by NK-OK and MR DM have been building up quite the reputation for themselves, first as writers and producers and now performers in their own right. They were joined at the weekend by a range of musicians, singers and rappers to re-interpret Guru's vision of a music genre that was a ground-breaking fusion of jazz and hip-hop. It is less surprising to hear such a melange of music that typically emerges from urban melting pots in contemporary music, but Blue Lab Beats do it effortlessly and with a respectful reference to the history of both Jazz and Hip-Hop. An acknowledgement that these were musical forms that were intended at times as agents of social and political change is evident in the samples used in certain tracks. The packed crowd certainly enjoyed the grooves and beats generated by the duo, which was then energized further as the special guests played their part in the show.
They were introduced on stage by Kwame Kwaten, who told me prior to the show that Blue Lab Beats had worked hard to re-present "Jazzmatazz" in a celebratory light but adding their own flavour. Perhaps Guru would have been proud to see his legacy- London's new Jazz warriors are showing that they don't need to fit in- they fit in with themselves and are now making real waves.
Blue Lab Beats were joined by Jaz Karis, vocals; Kinkai, vocals; Seun Alayande, vocals; Tymusic Chijioke vocals; Eshu Akinnibi Sax; Dylan Jones, trumpet.
Check out this film by Jon E Price, documenting Blue Lab Beats and the resurgence of Jazz on the London music scene:
On Friday Night I went to take photographs of Trumpet player, Sheila Maurice Grey and her one-off Quartet assembled for the Friday Tonic sessions at the central Bar in the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the Southbank musical program. The band featured Keyboard player Sarah Tandy, who was recently named as one of the 40 musicians to watch in the Guardian, bassist Kai Rio and drummer Patrick Boyle.
Sheila leads the afro-jazz group Kokoroko and also plays with Nerija.
I found out last week that I've been selected by curator, Lisa Gray, to show at the Flux Art Exhibition at Chelsea College of Art from the 11th to the 15th of April. 700 applicants had applied and 100 proposals were accepted, so I was pleased that my second group show experience is going to be happening in London and among a high caliber of artists. This has given me a few goals to focus on and I'll be using this opportunity to produce my first works on canvas, which will be a new challenge for me with my chosen media as I'll be using one off stencils to create the work. These will need to be executed really carefully as I'm not certain how the processes that I've been using on paper will translate to canvas.
My latest stencil test is from a photo I took of Femi Temowo some time ago that I'd wanted to work on for a while. All my stencils are hand cut and it is usually the stencils that take the most time in the process of making this type of imagery. This painting is composed of 6 layers. I'll be messing around with the colour combinations to see which captures the mood of the music I'm listening to. Femi's latest album, "Music is the Feeling" has a range of Nigerian/ Yoruba-influenced pieces that are performed with the Engines Orchestra, so I'll look to interpret some of these songs while I'm making the work in the studio.
I was at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Thursday night to take some pictures of Soweto Kinch. He was playing a few tracks form his recent album, "Nonagram", but also performing some of his trademark freestyle raps, joined at the end of the evening by rappers Jonzi D and Kingpin. "Conversations With The Unseen" was the first Soweto Kinch Album that I bought and it introduced me not only to his playing and rapping, but also to the musicianship of Troy Miller on drums and Femi Temowo on guitar. I subsequently bought Temowo's album, "Quiet Storm" and Miller's album "40 Days". These 3 albums had great impact on me as jazz albums, but also were innovative in their blending of jazz and hip hop beats. As you can see on other pages on the site, both Temowo and Miller feature in my photos and artwork, so having the opportunity to photograph Kinch playing live was an opportunity I couldn't miss and allowed me to get further with producing a body of work that was a visual response to my musical inspirations over the last decade or so.
The soundscape created by the Kinch's trio at the Rich Mix was augmented by his use of loop pedals which helped to re-create some of the textures on "Nonagram", but had a different impact live. I wanted to capture the intensity and focus of the performance by zooming in close up to the musicians with a telephoto lens and trying to record their concentration as they played- a challenge in any low lit conditions where the subject is moving unexpectedly. This was contrasted with the raps and improvisations that managed to involve the lively crowd in the proceedings too. The climax of the show was the freestyling between the three performers, Kinch, Jonzi D and Kingpin, where audience contributions for key words were incorporated into the rhymes.
I've been through the photos and I think I've found some decent images to turn into stencils...watch this space.
So, the New Artist Fair is over. I made some sales, met some interesting people and got some great feedback. I'm on to the next artistic adventure. in the meantime here are some memories. The tune is an old jam we recorded in the studio a long time ago and turned into a sampled groove.
I was really excited about displaying my stencil based art for the first time. The New Artist Fair took place at the Old Truman Brewery in the heart of Shoreditch, the area of London best known for its wide variety of street art. Ely's yard has been a magnet for tourists and visitors to the area, where as well as fuelling up at the pop up food spots and bars, you can also see the work of Shepard Fairey, D-Face and Space Invader all in one vista.
After setting up my artwork, I headed to Brick Lane where I knew that one of my favourite artists, Spray Child, had been wheat-pasting earlier in the week. It was great to see her work in person rather than on instagram.
Then, it was back to the OTB to finish the set up and look forward to what was later a very busy private view.
Apart from my close family there to celebrate, Bloomberg Award winning artist, Hilde Krohn Huse dropped by with her sister to tell me about what she's been up to and to check out the rest of the work at the fair.