Guru Jazzmatazz: Streetsoul

For the third edition of his Jazzmatazz series, Gang Starr front man Guru takes a markedly different approach than in the past. This time around, despite the presence of Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes, the venerable presence of the likes of past contributors Donald Byrd, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers is noticeably curtailed. The guest list for Jazzmatazz: Streetsoul is selected from the cream of the current "neo-soul" crop of artists. Despite this marked change on paper, things look very promising and solid entries "Keep Your Worries," with Angie Stone, and the bouncy tease of "Plenty," with Erykah Badu, the closest thing to jazz you'll hear here, do nothing to sway that notion. Guru kicks the overly positive rhymes he usually saves for these projects, as opposed to the more rugged terrain explored with Gang Starr, but his style, at times, sounds awkward against the tracks provided by outside producers. But it's when things connect on collaborations with the Roots, Macy Gray and newcomer Bilal on head-nodding and pleasing tracks that the new direction of the series becomes clear. The different approach finds Guru a little too willing to fall in line with the style of his guests rather than lead the way, and it's uniformly solid, this concession contradicts the spirit and intent laid down by the still superior first volume of this series. (Virgin)