Oneness Of Juju – 1975 – African Rhythms
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One of the most groundbreaking bands of their time. From early avant-garde jazz work on the Strata East label to their later fusions of Afrobeat, funk and spiritual jazz, Oneness stand as a huge influence for today’s jazz scene. Released in 1976, the African Rhythms album is Oneness Of Juju’s masterpiece. Bandleader J. Plunky Branch had moved back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia from New York and introduced R&B, funk and African percussion into his music to appeal to the local market. Topped by the soaring vocals of Jackie Holoman-Lewis, the Oneness sound became a tight, supremely soulful outfit. Although it sold to the local market, African Rhythms was revived in the late ’80s when rare groove fever hit the UK. Ever since, the album has been an essential part of any soul and funk DJ’s collection.
A1 African Rhythms 7:17
A2 Kazi 4:20
A3 Funky Wood 1:13
A4 Tarishi 3:55
A5 Mashariki 3:22
B1 Chants 1:14
B2 Don’t Give Up 5:41
B3 Incognito 8:10
B4 Poo Too 3:43
B5 Liberation Dues 4:34
KILLER, percussion-heavy jazz-funk jams designed to free both mind and booty. For maximum party, the first side of the LP is mixed as a single, extremely dance-friendly set; the second side, while just as great, breaks up the party with the hypnotic, downtempo, slightly menacing “Incognito”. Very few of us are as rad as the men and women involved in the making of this record, but at least we can listen and pretend, right?
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.
A landmark of Afro-centric jazz in the 70s – and the first album by this famous underground collective! Oneness of Juju were a Washington DC-based group that grew out of the ashes of the Juju avant jazz ensemble – formed in the culturally rich African-American community of DC in the 70s, with spiritual and political aspirations that stretched far beyond the average funky combo. This first album is a masterful blend of percussion, jazz, and a slight bit of funk – alternating vocal tracks with harder-hitting jazz instrumentals, all held together under the leadership of sax player Plunky Nakabinde.
The album’s one of the greatest independent soul jazz albums of the 70s – and it’s filled with great tracks, such as the breakbeat classic “African Rhythms” and “Liberation Dues“.