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African Rhythms

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Album Review

From a trailblazing band featuring members well-versed in jazz, funk, gospel, and African music, the debut album by the Oneness of Juju displayed a group playing with the dexterity of Kool & the Gang, the forward-thinking musical ideas of Herbie Hancock, and the social consciousness of Gil Scott-Heron. The title track is fiercely kinetic, with vocal choruses prodding listeners to dance and Plunky's echo-drenched saxophone floating serenely over the top of a funky space-jazz backing. Elsewhere, the band lapses into a few dated mid-'70s arrangements (reminiscent of Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, etc.), but the playing is always wonderful — Plunky especially distinguishes himself in many different modes — and the production is crystalline. "Don't Give Up" and "Liberation Dues" are two other highlights, with positive-minded chants and funky arrangements. [In early 2002, the British jazz/funk/world reissue label Strut brought African Rhythms back from the brink, with two bonus tracks: an instrumental version of "Liberation Dues" and the single version of "African Rhythms."]

Biography

Genre: Crossover Jazz

Years Active: '70s

Based around saxophonist James Plunky Branch, Oneness of Juju was the second incarnation of the Afrocentric creative jazz group Juju who recorded two albums for the Strata East label in the early '70s. Along with new members and new instruments, including the introduction of a drum kit to the African and Afro-Cuban percussion section, a new name was adopted to reflect the direction of the group. While Juju was often compared to Pharoah Sanders and active in the loft jazz scene in New York, Oneness...
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African Rhythms, Oneness of Juju
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