An early Shorter solo album, and I believe the second one (of a long series) on the Blue Note label, Juju is also one of my fave, not least because of the outstanding contribution of Tyner and his usual-suspect Trane accomplice Elvin on the drums and Workman on bass. Ok, don’t think I’m jumping on my Trane train yet, because Shorter is the star, and his compositions are one of the best he’s ever done, and his stellar playing shines throughout the album’s six tracks, but inevitably the Trane shadow is lurking all over Juju.
What a pleasure it is to hear the Coltrane crew without Trane in the opening title, even if it’s almost impossible not to think of the master himself, mainly because of the instantly recognizable Tyner piano and a slight raga feel. Deluge is quieter pedestrian tempo that doesn’t match its predecessor in terms of adventure. The even slower House of Jade is somehow a bit of a bore, despite an excellent but slightly predictable end. On the flipside’s Mahjong, Elvin opens alone, but is soon joined by Tyner’s tense piano line and Shorter’s wailing sax to give the whole thing a slightly exotic-raga touch and turns out to be the album’s best moment. The following up-beat Yes Or No present a slight bop feel, but voids falling in the usual trap. The bluesy-bop closer 12 More Bars is not exactly a foot-stomper, but fits correctly the album’s overall tone.
The remaster reissue feature alternate takes (both shorter ;o))) of the title track and the Jade track, but it’s not like they are a major selling point. Compared with many of his subsequent releases such as Speak No Evil or Schizophrenia, this is a far more adventurous album, even if Wayne will work again with Tyner in Soothsayer, but not to the same affect. As for Juju, it’s a little sad that the tracks following the lead-of song on each side of the album don’t really pick up where they left off. Good early album, getting my personal nod, probably because of the Trane-gang connection.