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Guru and Solar

Jazzmatazz: Latest Hip Hop/Jazz Fusion Comes to SF

Guruís exploration into the grey area where jazz and hip hop meet will continue with the July 31st release of his of Jazzmatazz Vol. 4: The Hip-Hop Jazz Messenger: Back To The Future, the latest in a series of recordings he started in 1993. This time around Guru enlisted the help of Solar, the New York producer who produced the last Guru LP Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures and co-founded 7 Grand Records with the rapper. In true Jazzmatazz form, the album will also feature collaborations with Common, Damien Marley, the Bay Areaís own Blackalicious, and others. The duo performs at Mezzanine with a seven-piece band on July 28th. Guru and Solar spoke with SF Station during a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): When did you discover jazz music?

Guru: I had a lot of influences from my uncles and my dad when I was growing up. Especially my godfather, he played all kinds of jazz for me. He made me listen to all of the jazz greats. Also, I was influenced by my older brother and other situations.

Solar: Since I now know a lot more about jazz, I realize that I was first exposed to jazz when I first started listening to popular music. But as far as my first real exposure, it was as a young teenager. I was attracted to the funk-jazz guys. In this album you hear a lot of that early so-called funk, which is just a new incarnation of jazz.

SFS: Vol. 1 of Jazzmatazz was released in 1993, what does Vol. 4 sound like nearly 15 years later?

Guru: In my opinion it is the best one because we took the time to analyze the first three rather than making a "best of" album. We took it to the next level. The producer-artist relationship is so cohesive at this point. We put out our first album in 2005, Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures, and that was just the tip of the iceberg of what Guru and Solar could do. With this new album, weíve got some of the greatest artists as well -- everybody from jazz greats and contemporary great singers, to up-and-coming artists. Itís really a star-studded affair.

Solar: I donít think itís really fair for me to say that itís the best Jazzmatazz album ever. I will say that has the most concise vision and intensity. When I studied the other three, I looked for what would make volume 4 special, what would make it stand out, and what would make it stand out in a positive way without taking away from the other three.

SFS: How did you hook up with the Bay Area group Blackalicious?

Guru: I have done a couple of shows with Blackalicious over the years and I have always liked them. My man Gift of Gab killed that track. When we heard that verse, me and Solar were both rhyming it. We drove around rhyming his verse.

Solar: I met them for the first time in New Mexico, and after catching the show I thought they would definitely be an enhancement to Jazzmatazz. All the elements combine to make a classic album -- the best album of its type. Itís not going to be a huge commercial success, but we didnít see it to be that. But, it is a classic album.

SFS: With the new album and label you have said you are out to bring positive change to hip hop. How are you doing that?

Solar: With 7 Grand Records I want to tell the world to look to New York. New York gave you the truth of hip hop, and it gave you jazz and the truth of jazz. Now, 7 Grand is reminding you of that truth. Itís not lifeís fantastical truth of big-butt women and bullshit cars, but real truth of pain, suffering, hope, happiness, life and death, and great music that speaks to that cycle of life.

Guru: It relates to the title of the album, Back to the Future. Hip hop came out of the struggle. It came out as an alternative to violence. It was an answer to street violence and economic violence. It showed the spirit of the youth and that it was so strong and unbreakable. Under all of the pressure that was put on black and Latino youth, instead of breaking and turning to violence and negativity, they created a whole new art form that has stunned the world and transformed it. We are here to guide it subtlety back.

Guruís Jazzmatazz comes to Mezzanine on July 28th. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 9pm.