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Oneness of Juju

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Formed in 1971 (and still going strong) Oneness of JuJu was the brainchild of saxophonist J. Plunky Branch. Like many others on the legendary Strata East label, Oneness mixed R&B, free jazz, afro-Brazilian percussion and down-home funk with an upbeat spiritual message, earning them a place in many a DJ’sbig metalbox in the process.

Space Jungle Luv emerged in 1976 (a year after the classic African Rhythms set) and marked a distinct change of direction for Plunky and co. Their feet were still in the ghetto, but this time they were looking at the stars; headed up by the strong, sweet vocal stylings of Jacqueline Holman (aka Lady Eka-Ete) and Branch’s often effects drenched saxophones, this is cosmic dancefloor jazz of the first water.

Space Jungle Luv opens with the loose limbed latin drift of “River Luv Rite”, and moves through the deep, soulful funk of “Follow Me” to the Pharoah Sanders-esque “Soul Love Now” (pianist Joe Bonner was a member of Oneness for this set, and Branch had appeared on Pharoah’s Wisdom of Music album).

“Space Jungle Funk” does what it says on the tin; Branch’s heavily processed tenor snakes, squelches and squeals its way through a zero gravity slice of flanged ambient jazz funk. “The Connection” offers more earthbound grooves; here Branch’s tenor is electronically ghosted into a bass clarinet and moog synth orchestra over Ronnie Toler’s pushy funk drums and guitarist Melvin Glover’s muted wah chords.

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