December 2006

Jazz By Genre V
presented by Nu Jazz Society & Nufunk
December 3, 2006Mod Club TheatreToronto
Coexisting in Harmony
by Tony Shivpershad | photos by Dougal Bichan

Jazz By Genre V was an impressive ensemble of talent that took place at Toronto’s Mod Club Theatre, and one that could teach world leaders a lesson. The tone of the evening was set by D.J. Dalia who spun classic hip-hop and soul. Eric B. and Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul were called upon a few times. The host of the evening was spoken-word artist, CBC Radio’s Anne-Marie Woods (A.K.A. Amani) whose introduction to the live portion of the night was a poem which chronicled Hip-Hop from its beginnings with Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, and followed the timeline right up to the night itself when she had the crowd chanting “Hip-Hop”, “Jazz”, “Hip-Hop”, “Jazz”, Hip-Hop”, “Jazz”. She enticed us to “explore something you may not have heard before” and promised “a musical renaissance”.

What followed was like a peace summit. Many musical genres came to the Mod Club to see if it were possible that they could coexist. First up was some raw hip-hop from a collective known as Rhythmicru. A D.J. provided the backing which consisted of sparse percussion with deep bass, while three M.C.s, at times joined by a fourth, flowed lyrics. Rhythmicru’s rhymes were passionate and flowing, as the group bounced energetically across the stage. Just how deep was that deep bass? The group exclaimed that they were “keeping it underground, like the subway.”

After a few songs, Rhythmicru was joined on stage by The Irie Band, which consisted of two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer along with special guest trumpeter Alexis Baro. This is where the audience was given its first taste of the blurring of musical genres that had been promised. The Irie Band rocked out, Rhythmicru spewed hip-hop, while Baro jazzed it up. Eventually Rhythmicru left the stage and The Irie Band shifted gears. One would expect a band called the The Irie Band to play reggae, and that was finally realized when they launched into an instrumental dub rhythm , but with a difference, this featured a bass solo with a distortion effect, as well as a heavy rock guitar solo before returning to the dub.

Anne-Marie Woods (A.K.A. Amani)

Rhythmicru with The Irie Band

Alexis Baro

A long intermission ensued, in which D.J. Dalia was employed to keep the crowd in the mood. Finally, host Amani introduced Jugular. Jugular walked onto the stage while he created record scratching and percussion sounds vocally. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, while beat boxing the drum sounds, he simultaneously threw in a trumpet sound without the aid of the instrument. Then he broke it down for us. He created a whole vocal drum kit — a set of toms, a bass drum, high-hats and cymbals — and combined them by playing a vocal drum solo, and even imitated some farm animal noises. Jugular was then joined by an M.C. and they ran from a mid-tempo, slowed down to about 88 Beats per Minute and then sped way up to about 120 BPM. He really got the crowd going. He ended with the word “Wipeout”, paying homage to one of Beat Boxing’s pioneers, the late Darrin “The Human Beat Box” Robinson of The Fat Boys.

At last the super group took to the stage. Flying under the banner of the Toronto Jazzmatazz All-Stars, and featuring the likes of trumpeter Nick “Brownman” Ali, Sundar Viswanathan on saxophone and flute, Marc Rogers of the Philosopher Kings on bass, David Scott on guitar, DJ Doo Wop, Colin Kingsmore (from KC Roberts & The Raw Blue) on drums, record producer Solar serving as hype-man, vocalists Kelleylee Evans and Zaki Ibrahim, and the legend himself, Guru.

They started with “Transit Ride” and “Loungin’” from 1993’s “Jazzmatazz Volume 1” and then spun into Gang Starr classics like “Ex Girl to the Next Girl” from 1992’s “Daily Operation”. Heads were bobbing, and hands were clapping. Guru called himself “the King of hip-hop jazz”. No one can dispute that. He was the first person to seriously fuse the two genres. What was impressive about Guru was the joy he found in the music being created. He is one of the greatest rappers of all time, but unlike most other rappers his ego was not so big that he felt he must overshadow the rest of the talent on the stage. Many times he shared his mic with Nick “Brownman” Ali’s trumpet, and Sundar’s sax, and those two blew their brains out. Brownman was a madman, with lungs of steel, who at times threatened to take over the show, and Guru seemed willing to let him. He was also comfortable enough to let the two female vocalists have their time. Kellylee and Zaki were having a great time, laughing and dancing and treating us with their powerful voices.

What had actually taken place on that stage was much larger than it appeared. Jazz by Genre was really about blurring, even erasing the borders between various styles of music, creating one happy hybrid.


A look around the Mod Club showed that this fusion was a success, not just musically, but humanly also. There were people of all ages, and races. There was hope for the world. Hope because if hip-hop, jazz, rock and reggae could learn to play together in such beautiful harmony, then maybe, perhaps one day people of different roots and beliefs could also learn to live together. A lot of rappers yell “peace” as they leave the stage. Guru had the crowd repeat “peace” three times, ensuring that they were sincere before he was satisfied.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tony Shivpershad
• • • • • •
Dougal Bichan
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The Live Music Report

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