Fulfilling the potential promised on his Blue Note debut, Night Dreamer, Wayne Shorter's JuJu was the first great showcase for both his performance and compositional gifts. Early in his career as a leader, Shorter was criticized as a mere acolyte of John Coltrane, and his use of Coltrane's rhythm section on his first two Blue Note albums only bolstered that criticism. The truth is, though, that Elvin Jones, Reggie Workman, and McCoy Tyner were the perfect musicians to back Shorter. Jones' playing at the time was almost otherworldly. He seemed to channel the music through him when improvising and emit the perfect structure to hold it together. Workman too seemed to almost instinctively understand how to embellish Shorter's compositions. McCoy Tyner's role as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time was played here as well, and his light touch and beautiful, joyful improvisations would make him a much better match for Shorter than Herbie Hancock would later prove to be. What really shines on JuJu is the songwriting. From the African-influenced title track (with its short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases) to the mesmerizing interplay between Tyner and Shorter on "Mahjong," the album (which is all originals) blooms with ideas, pulling in a world of influences and releasing them again as a series of stunning, complete visions.
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AllMusic Review by Stacia Proefrock