Out & About

Might wanna stay home for this, only because the floor might get a little sticky around last call, and not because some tourist from Plano spilled his Bacardi and Coke. "I want people to make love to this" album, says Guru in the liner notes to his latest, Jazzmatazz Vol. 3:Streetsoul, and God forbid a lying ovation breaks out at the Gypsy Tea Room. "I want some kids to be born offa this," continues the vocal half of Gang Starr, before mentioning something about how the mood on this soul-stirring, guest-starring, heart-breaking, love-making joint is "playerlistic," which sounds like a word George W. Bush might use when referring to the National Football League. No doubt about it, though--Guru's latest ain't his greatest, only because the second outing in the so-far trilogy, The New Reality, was all over the place, brilliantly spastic. Last time out, he rounded up Kool Keith and Branford Marsalis, Chaka Khan and Courtney Pine, and for the first time since Digable Planets landed in the cutout bin straight from the wholesalers, rap-jazz-R&B-etc.-etc. sounded like the freshest concept since edible condoms and voter fraud. Maybe it's just hard to top yourself when you're a pioneer taking one big-ass step backward--into 1978 and right into Isaac Hayes.

Chef is but one of 17 cameos this time out, and it's too bad Guru can't schlep all his guest stars on the tour bus (only The Roots are coming along, because it's their tour and they're footing the bill, though it's possible Erykah Badu could step to the stage if she's in town). The only thing missing is Barry White or Roberta Flack co-starring and a Donny Hathaway sample; this disc's so retro, it comes with its own time machine. Problem is, it's also the least insistent of Guru's solo works: You want more of Angie Stone ("Keep Your Worries" is the best song not on her own debut, which is a shame, since it needed at least one) or Macy Gray (more of her, always) and less of, oh, Isaac Hayes, whose voice makes a girl all wet...with tears of laughter, these days. And it rides a single bump-and-grind from start to finish; the ride never takes you anywhere, except to the CD player to change discs after the halftime "Interlude" that separates the wheat from the chaff. (The disc's first half beats the hell out of its second, especially by the time you get to the Herbie Hancock finale that's more "Rockit" than "Cantaloupe Island.") Not bad--Guru's kind of a genius, if you're grading on a curve--but not brilliant either, which is still enough to warrant a passing grade these days. Like this show needs a recommendation anyway: There ain't a better hip-hop act out there than The Roots. OK, not unless you count Outkast.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky