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  JUBA Collective JUBA Collective
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Rating: 2.5 out of 5

by Sterling McGarvey

Chicago's JUBA Collective consists of a group of artists, poets and producers who have united to create a conglomeration of spoken word, hip-hop, deep house and jazz. Juba is a traditional African dance brought to America during slavery times as a means of escaping the horrors of slavery through dance and creative expression. In this case, JUBA is also an acronym, meaning "Joined Universal Breath Ascending." Members of the group include house producers, underground hip-hop MCs, spoken word poets, and jazz musicians who have collectively played with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Cassandra Wilson, Lou Rawls, Miles Davis, B.B. King, Donny Hathaway, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone.

Essentially, JUBA Collective has a heavy-duty pedigree. Can it live up to the potential caliber of its artists' previous work? Yes, and no. It's a very ambitious project, and one can tell from the origins of the group that it is a huge labor of love. Yet there is a feeling of spoiled broth that hurts the album. Some tracks just don't gel like they should. Honestly, it's the kind of album that jazz hipsters will be more likely to add to their collection than your average dance music enthusiast. It's not bad, but it feels really, really overstuffed for listening to as an album.

The album starts out well enough with "Return of the Lost Tribe" and its nod-inducing rhythm and diversity of sounds. These range from traditional, jazzy instruments to sitars, and from French-speaking poets to MCs with catchy lyrics. Yet at the same time, one feels like JUBA is cramming so much into the effort that it bursts at the seams. "Papa's Bounce" is a housey track that is combined with the MCs of the primeridian meditating on the burdens that life presents to us with age. JUBA's cover of "This Little Light of Mine" sounds like someone stuck Groove Collective and Matthew Herbert in a room together; it's got the acid jazz jam band feel spliced with minimal house. Some of the other tracks, such of "Song of Myself," have a slight hip-hop percussiveness and a jazzy sensibility to them. The album closes out with a remix of "Papa's Bounce" that has a little more "umph" to it than the predecessor, perhaps to get some dancefloor play. Unfortunately, however, there is too much overproduction that plagues the album. Does virtually every track need MCs and poets? Does there need to be fifteen instruments going on at the same time? It's understandable to ensure that the entire collective appears on the album, but at some points, less would have been better.

JUBA Collective's effort feels like going to a party where the hosts are really, really nice and they mean well, but it feels like they're trying way too hard to please everyone. From the EDM perspective of listening to JUBA Collective, it doesn't really succeed in its attempt to be a house album that happens to have influences culled from a variety of sources. As a Jazz album, it has ambition and potential, but it's still got a lot crammed into it. Hopefully, JUBA's next effort will focus on creating more chiseled tracks, instead of inundating the listener with so much at once.


JUBA Collective from JUBA Collective
by JUBA Collective

Track Listing:

  1. Return Of The Lost Tribe
  2. Papa's Bounce
  3. Now's The Time
  4. This Little Light Of Mine
  5. Ornette
  6. Venus
  7. Song Of Myself
  8. Where Do You Want To Go?
  9. Papa's Bounce Remix

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