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Jaiyede Afro (with the Heliocentrics)

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Album Review

Nigerian musical innovator Orlando Julius made his reputation internationally in the mid-'60s with his smash album Super Afro Soul. Fela Kuti was actually in Julius' band, the Modern Aces, playing trumpet before leaving — with a few of the band's members — to form Koola Lobitos. Julius relocated to the United States for a time in the '70s, where, as O.J. Ekemode, he worked with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Lamont Dozier to Hugh Masekela and the Crusaders before returning to Africa. Though active on the concert front, Julius hasn't made a recording of material since the '80s. London's space funk pioneers the Heliocentrics, led by drummer Malcolm Catto, are, for lack of a better word, specialists in drawing out legendary personas — they've cut collaborative albums with Mulatu Astatke, Lloyd Miller, and Melvin Van Peebles. Jaiyede Afro was recorded at their North London studio. It contains early compositions that have never been previously recorded, stomping rearrangements of classics, and some new tunes. Opener "Buje Buje" initially appeared on Orlando Julius & the Afro Sounders, issued back in 1973; it's far sleeker here. The breakbeat-driven groove features Julius' alto puncturing the backbeat with serpentine accents amid taut guitars and a bubbling, dubwise bassline. His vocals have lost none of their power over the decades, either. "Aseni" is pure, steamy, floor-grinding Afro-funk with a tough front horn line and killer hi-hat work by Catto. The title cut melds layers of hand percussion, drum kit, a rubbery bassline, spacy wafting organ, and angular guitar vamps. Julius' sax solo signals a change in direction as a call-and-response encounter with a female chorus transforms this slow burner into one of the set's finest moments. There is a hell of a lot of reverb here, but for the most part it never overwhelms the proceedings. "Omo Oba Blues" is guitarless. It's a highlife tune that commences with vocals (lead and backing chorus) and percussion, but gradually gets an organ vamp in the backdrop; it increases in dynamic and tempo before Julius delivers a piercing alto solo. "Be Counted" is a moaning, humid, and nocturnal jam with Julius and his singers entwining hypnotically before the horn section ruptures the driving Afro-beat that frames it. "In the Middle," an instrumental, is another cooking Afro-funk jam, combining African jazz, American funk, and Latin grooves; Julius displays his best sax of the album here. Jaiyede Afro marks a welcome return for Orlando Julius and overall is an excellent, fingerpopping, ass-shaking collaboration.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Few artists have been more crucial to the invention, development, and popularization of Afro-pop than Orlando Julius. Starting in the '60s, Julius was fusing traditional African sounds and rhythms with those of American pop, soul, and R&B. Aside from performing and recording in his native Nigeria, he spent many years in the United States working on collaborations with Lamont Dozier, the Crusaders, and Hugh Masekela. His 1966 effort, Super Afro Soul, made him a national celebrity in Nigeria and...
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Jaiyede Afro (with the Heliocentrics), Orlando Julius
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