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Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear

Chris May By

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Britain's Jazzman Records has form when it comes to spiritual jazz. Its series Spiritual Jazz: Modal, Esoteric and Deep Jazz, now one release away from its tenth volume, has made accessible again some of the most worthwhile but near-lost African American music of the 1970s. The label also supports modern day British musicians. Stand out home-grown releases during 2018 were Nat Birchall's Cosmic Language and Nick Woodmansey's Emanative's Earth.

Jazzman rarely puts a foot wrong (the ninth volume of Spiritual Jazz, a perplexingly off-target trawl through Blue Note's mid-1960s hard bop catalogue, was a one-off glitch). With Chicago-based Infinite Spirit Music's Live Without Fear, the label has once more hit the motherload. Originally self-released on keyboard player Soji Adebayo's Ancient Afrika label in 1979, the album is a deep-strata delight positioned on the porous Afrofuturist border between spiritual and political concerns.

The album kicks off with two four-minute, chant and percussion-based invocations. Track three, "Bright Tune," is the first of three extended pieces featuring Adebayo's trippy electric keyboards, a percussion trio led by Kahil El'Zabar, and reed player Henry Huff, whose palette ranges between gritty tenor saxophone and ethereal oboe. Approximately speaking, the group sounds like a stripped down Sun Ra Arkestra crossed with the group John Coltrane assembled for Kulu Sé Mama (Impulse, 1966) and the one Shamek Farrah led on First Impressions (Strata-East, 1974).

Of the seven musicians heard on Live Without Fear, only Adebayo and El'Zabar are still active. The others have either passed or retired. El'Zabar has recorded prolifically, with David Murray, Wadada Leo Smith, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and was for a while chair of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Adebayo has kept a lower profile, focusing on community-based music-and-dance events.

Live Without Fear was reissued in Japan in 2014, but only on CD. Making it available again on vinyl is a public service. Jazzman say they have actually improved on the vinyl sound-quality, too (this listener has only heard the CD). Playing times on both sides of the Ancient Afrika LP pressings are not far short of 30 minutes, beyond contemporary vinyl's ability to deliver optimal audio. With that in mind, Jazzman is releasing Live Without Fear as a double album cut at 45rpm.

Track Listing: Disc 1 Side 1 : Children’s Song; Ritual. Disc 1 Side 2: Bright Tune. Disc 2 Side 1: Father Spirit Mother Love; Rasta. Disc 2 Side 2: Soul Flower; Live Without Fear.

Personnel: Henry Huff: reeds; Soji Adebayo: keyboards; Mchaka Uba: bass; Kahil El’Zabar: congas, vocals; Aye Aton: percussion; Ibo: congas; Ka T’Etta Aton: vocals.

Title: Live Without Fear | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Jazzman Records

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