“Creative musicians should not consider themselves entertainers. Their purpose is to enlighten – themselves first and then the audience.” That’s how Muhal Richard Abrams stated the essential truth in the AACM manifesto. This ethos has been clearly articulated by its many awe-inspiring members; from the Art Ensemble to Anthony Braxton to Phil Cohran to Henry Threadgill to etc.
As AACM members themselves, I had an expectation of this 1979 recording by Chicago’s Infinite Spirit Music to be proudly uncommercial, seriously uncompromising, with an out there, spiritual, African influence. So, I planned to give it a quick blast to prove I was right and then wait until I was more ‘in the mood’ (and until my free-jazz-fearing family were out of the house!) to give it a focused full play.
As it turns out, the out there onslaught I was expecting never came; “Live Without Fear” is a gentle, soulful, peaceful flow of feel good and optimism.
In “Children’s Song” a Soji Adebayo rhodes twinkles and massages, Light Henry Huffs ascendant sax soothes and strokes while Ka l’ella Alou’s (?) smoky, celestial voice seeks ascendance. Divine, fluid, relaxed and respectful it feels like a coasting Lonnie Liston trustfully taking his foot off the gas.
“Ritual” and “Father Spirit, Mother Love” are African voice and percussion prayers; calling for love, wisdom and strength to proceed and grow. They’re both led in the devotional by Kahil El Zabar, creating a voice of strength, tension and uplift.
If you want some percussionfest rhythm fire then “Bright Tune” is your spin. Following a deep Huffs walkabout the layers of conga, whistles, ticks n tocks n shaky stuff deliver an extensive, revitalising, hypnotic space that eventually gets rudely interrupted by some gleeful, expressive Rhodes runs and glides. It’s fusion-time in Evanston!
“Rasta” has many parts and wears its Caribbean influence interestingly. The first 2 minutes are metronomic and electronic music-aware; then Soji stabs us into dub-lite while Huff lyrically floats and soothes again. Always sparse, it breaks down into a conversational bass solo before Soji takes us on a soulful, peaceful ramble.
Title track, “Live Without Fear”, kicks off in the vein I expected from this album. Huff’s wasp sax excites, lifts & stings, but only briefly, before the soulful spirituality takes over again; this time in the elevating vocal/sax/piano spoken mantra of “Live Without Fear”. We are then blessed with Soji’s explosion of warmth before the Infinite Spirit Music percussive troupe dances away into the distance finally, and sincerely, wishing upon us a life without fear.
Soji Adebayo remembers of the album “I recorded Live Without Fear on May 31, 1979 with some of my friends. We drove up into Evanston from Chicago in three cars on a day that smelled good and spoke all day sunshine…to Live Without Fear means to live in material reality with faith… Peace on you!”
That pretty much sums it up; warm, soulful, spiritual sunshine that smells real good, wishes Peace upon you and, true to the AACM manifesto; it enlightens.