Oneness of Juju - African Rhythms. 1975 USA
CD reissues: 1994 Black Fire; 2002 Strut (UK); 2013 Shout (Japan mini-LP)
LP reissues: 1993 Black Fire; 2002 Strut (UK 2 LP)
Saxophonist James "Plunky" Branch was the visionary behind Oneness of Juju. He'd already done the complete subversive anarchist bit, giving up his scholarship at Columbia University, evading 'Nam, relocating to San Francisco, hanging with The Black Panthers, and joining far left wing jazz groups of the early 70s. No doubt, he found himself on a variety of US Gubmint watch lists in the day. Eventually he settled back into his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and realized conservative southern local audiences weren't going to be too enthralled with his current blend of political and musical radicalism. So he decided to blend the best of all worlds. Maintaining the integrity of the deep funk sound, while paying heed to serious African culture, Oneness of Juju was born (out of the former New York City based free jazz group Juju). Branch is to be commended for sticking to his core principles while also appealing to much wider audiences, bridging and forging new relationships across all cultures. As such, the private release gained more popularity in Europe and Japan than in the US in its own era, though today everyone can appreciate the quality of this forward thinking jazz/funk/African-centric set of compositions.
The CD on Strut (UK) is awesome with full liner notes, great sound, and a couple of excellent bonus tracks.