Dope photos by Lisa Brown Photography. Writeup by ND McCray.
It is still hard to believe that legendary rapper Keith “Guru” Elam passed away over a year ago, but I’m sure he was smiling down on the Revive Da Live Big Band Tribute to him and theJazzamatazz series on Thursday (April 21) at Le Poisson Rouge.
Other than hearing “Mass Appeal” on the radio as a teenager, I didn’t officially become a Guru fan until Jazzmatazz Volume II (1995), and later with volume one because of vocalist N’Dea Davenport (I’m a huge Brand New Heavies fan).
The tribute show was probably the most honest and respectful event to honor Guru’s legacy. Jeru the Damaja, who worked a lot with him and Premier as Gang Starr, opened the show to basically get the crowd hype. He did his thing and then allowed the Revive Da Live band and other featured artists to bring more hip hop and jazz to the space.
Peter Gunz (of Lord Tariq fame) came through and spit a few bars blending a “Déjà Vu (Uptown Baby)” flow with what I believe was a freestyle rhyme, which became the theme of the night. Lord Finesse, OC, Masta Ace, and others hit the stage with many kind words for the man we all came out to celebrate: Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. In the house as well were celebrated jazz men Roy Ayers and Roy Hargrove.
Bridging the gap between local emcees, jazz musicians, and hip hop fans has been the goal of Revive Da Live since 2006; when party promoter Meghan Stabile, 28, began the event as a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston—Guru’s hometown.
One of the more intimate moments of the show: a taped segment of Premo speaking about his times in the studio with Guru. The method of how they created tracks together; his energy, his flow; how Guru would write on every inch of a notepad, and seamlessly spit rhymes while turning it every which way in order to read them. Honestly, I think a lot of people dropped a tear or two during that dedication. It was truly touching.
Even more so when Premier hit the stage towards the end of the show to say thank you to everybody for coming out and showing love for Guru—at that moment we knew, or at least I did, that the celebrated emcee was definitely smiling down on us.