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  • Writer's pictureJAM

The Freedom Affair: Freedom is Love (Sunflower Soul Records, KC, 2021)

RE: something for everyone in this one

The Freedom Affair's new album, "Freedom is Love," is about the coolest, hippest popular album out of KC that I've ever heard when it comes to albums that can be filed under "jazz."

There's something about the '70s, especially to 40-somethings. We were alive then but didn't live it. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate it--like everyone else. This album capitalizes on that "something"-- a sense of unity and togetherness, funky and groovin' musicality, and an air of social justice and poignant protest. Almost all of that comes through in every song. And there are love songs too.

The first tune, "Rise Up," with its movie western opening, complete with the jingling of tambourine like spurs, could open a Tarantino film. It's that cool, that moody and hip. And then it gets better, backed by congas and guitar, full-on '70s funk fanfare, a love song full of busted, blasted love: "holding on / to a love that's gone." But unlike Tarantino, there's a kind of authenticity, instead of pastiche. There's representation, real soul--and grit beyond the camera bulb flash, the heart of the confessional or Beat poet in these fine lyrics, these spoken and sung words. Though sung, there's the flavor of Gil Scott-Heron or The Last Poets, and the strong-hearted, rhythmic beat that accompanies them.

Led by Black women's voices, the album is poignant, present, and topical--and includes a kind of representation other albums of its kind do not. It's authentic, and, though heavily influenced by the 1960s and '70s, the album sits squarely in this time, present day(s). Songs like "Don't Shoot," speak directly to the Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, and masculine violence, in general. "Before you pull that trigger / look into your brother's eyes," the song's opening entreats. The song can be read multiple ways, but most certainly lands on the side of peace, unity, community, and brother- and sisterhood.

The album is full of shining vocals as well as groovin' instrumental work. It's really a kind of balanced party--the mix, this large group that is The Freedom Affair. Everyone is top-notch, and together they are even better than that, a band that transcends the individual. An unmatched sound. And one that can help you reflect, feel, and dance.

Not only is the album chock-full of its own sparkling original lyrics, but also includes and ends with the inimitable words of Dr. Maya Angelou, renowned poet, activist, peace-warrior. The album's final song is a kind of benediction, a send-off that can render the listener breathless, but full of hope.

As a jazzer, there aren't so many albums I can share with my family and friends and have them understand, but this is one of them. It's groovy. It's upbeat and positive, and has hand-clap and dance-step energy. It speaks to today in today's language and to today's concerns. My mother will love it, my wife, my son. My friends. Everyone.

—Kevin Rabas

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