Two forms of music that Chicago is famous for are jazz and house. Most of the time those two worlds don't interact -- you won't find a house DJ spinning records at the Green Mill (one of Chicago's best jazz clubs) and you won't find a lot of hard bop or AACM jazzmen performing in the Windy City's dance clubs (where dancers are likely to know all about Marshall Jefferson but may not be hip to Fred Anderson or Johnny Griffith). But JUBA Collective's ambitious debut album, which was produced by avant-garde jazz drummer Kahil El'Zabar, successfully brings jazz elements to a hip-house foundation. Overall, the results are more hip-house than jazz -- this CD is essentially dance music with jazz overtones, and the Chicago-based outfit doesn't cater to jazz purists or jazz snobs. However, JUBA does boast some honest-to-God jazz musicians, including El'Zabar, saxman Ari Brown, and guitarist Fareed Haque. And even though this release isn't hardcore jazz, much of the material demonstrates that dance and club music can use jazz elements in a very creative fashion. The CD is a bit uneven; some of the tunes are more successful than others. But when JUBA excels, they really excel. The most compelling track is "Papa's Bounce," a jazzy hip-house number that reflects on the loss of innocence among teenagers. "Papa's Bounce" is about kids growing up too fast; without preaching, the tune makes an excellent case for family values and strong, tough parenting. Also quite impressive are the salsa-influenced "Venus" and an unlikely club/rap version of Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." Some of the spoken-word performances are overly self-indulgent, but JUBA's creativity is at such a high level that one is inclined to forgive the excesses of this interesting, if mildly inconsistent, release.
JUBA Collective Review
by Alex Henderson