Friday, March 25, 2022

“Aufu Oodu” by Ramsey Lewis

“Aufu Oodu” is one of the baddest fusion cuts ever committed to wax. The wicked, hair-raising groove effectively melds funk, jazz and African influences. Ron Harris lays down a ferocious bass line, while the dynamic horn section blasts the funk level to the stratosphere. Ramsey Lewis lets loose with an electrifying synthesizer solo, and it’s followed up by Derf Reklaw-Raheem’s brilliant flute work. Also, the funky guitar riffs help further deepen the groove.

The track features Earth, Wind & Fire-esque lyrics. It's an entreaty to a funky witch doctor named Aufu Oodu to create a powerful potion that will spread happiness, peace, love and positivity throughout the world. Its theme is similar to EWF’s song “Jupiter,” but instead of an extraterrestrial messenger of peace, it’s a mystical healer who utilizes voodoo for the good of humanity.

“Aufu Oodu” was written by Derf Reklaw-Raheem. It’s a track from jazz legend Ramsey Lewis’ 1976 album Salongo, which was released on Columbia Records. The LP was co-produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney. The collection is a satisfying sonic stew of funk, jazz, Latin, soul and African influences. It climbed to #7 on Billboard’s Top Jazz Album chart and peaked at #17 on Billboard's R&B album chart.

The players on the album were Ramsey Lewis (piano, electric piano, keyboards), Ron Harris (electric bass), Steve Cobb (drums, vocals), Jimmy Bryant (clavinet), Derf Reklaw-Raheem (flute, percussion, vocals), Maurice White (drums, timbales, vocals), Don Myrick (tenor saxophone), Larry Dunn (keyboards), Byron Gregory (electric and acoustic guitar), Verdine White (bass, vocals), Al McKay (guitar), George Bohanon (trombone), Harvey Mason (drums), Bobby Bryant (trumpet), Ernie Watts (saxophone), John Lind (background vocals), Janice Gower (concertmaster, violin), Jerry Richardson (saxophone), Oscar Brashear (trumpet), Fred Jackson (saxophone), Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums) and Tang (vocals).

Maurice White and Ramsey Lewis enjoyed a very productive musical relationship. Before forming Earth, Wind & Fire, White played drums for the Ramsey Lewis Trio for nearly three years. And he later wrote and produced the title track for Lewis’ smash album Sun Goddess (1974). EWF would sometimes perform “Sun Goddess” in concert. The band’s triple-platinum double-live album Gratitude (1975) contains a majestic live performance of the song.