Sonny Sharrock
(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Black Woman (1969), 6/10
Monkey-Pockie-Boo (1970), 7.5/10
Paradise (1975), 7/10
Memory Serves (1981), 7/10
Dance with Me Montana (1982), 5.5/10
Guitar (1986), 7/10
Last Exit (1986), 7/10
Koln (1986), 7/10
The Noise of Trouble (1986), 6/10
Seize the Rainbow (1987), 7/10
Whatthefuckdoyouwant (1987), 5/10
Iron Path (1988), 6/10
Machine Gun (1988), 5.5/10
Open Fire (1989), 5/10
Headfirst Into the Flames (1989), 5.5/10
Faith Moves (1990), 5.5/10
Highlife (1990), 4/10
Ask the Ages (1991), 7/10

After playing free jazz with Pharoah Sanders (1966-68) while he was playing funk-jazz with Herbie Mann (1969-72), guitarist Warren "Sonny" Sharrock (1940) recorded three albums with his wife Linda Sharrock's wordless vocals: Black Woman (may 1969), featuring trumpeter Teddy Daniel, pianist Dave Burrell, bassist Norris "Sirone" Jones and drummer Milford Graves, that displayed the influence of free jazz (Peanut, Portrait of Linda and the first version of his signature tune Blind Willy); Monkey-Pockie-Boo (june 1970), possibly his most personal album, crowned by the 17-minute stream of consciousness of 27th Day (mostly on slide whistle instead of guitar) and the nine-minute Monkey-Pockie-Boo; and Paradise (july 1975), introducing electronic keyboards in the sound of the couple and emphasizing Linda's Jeanne Lee-like vocal workouts (Miss Doris, Gary's Step), an avant-funk experiment that predated the new wave of rock music. The background of his guitar playing was fundamentally the blues, but at the same time he erupted a loud, aggressive, feedback-laden, quasi heavy-metal technique. Sharrock was trying to emulate both the visceral style of John Coltrane on the saxophone and the dissonant, decadent style of Jimi Hendrix

For six years Sharrock did not make a single record. It was white bassist Bill Laswell, a protagonist of the new wave, who rediscovered him for Material's Memory Serves (1981). Dance with Me Montana (march 1982), not released until 1986, contained embryonic versions of his classics She's Only Fourteen, Dance With Me Montana and Dick Dogs.

Laswell also organized Last Exit, an avant-funk mixed-race quartet with Sharrock, German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson that played virulent jazz-rock, influenced by both the brutal edge of punk-rock and the cerebral stance of the new wave. Laswell was the brain, but Sharrock was the epitome: Last Exit played the kind of loud, savage jazz-rock and free jazz that Sharrock had pioneered. The catch, of course, was that Laswell had put together four mad improvisers, ranging from the cacophonic Brotzmann to the hysterical Sharrock to Laswell's dub bass. Last Exit (february 1986) was a set of totally improvised jams, with frantic peaks in Redlight and Crackin', but pale in comparison with the massive 18-minute Hard School on the live Koln (february 1986). The other Last Exit live recording, The Noise of Trouble (october 1986), was a humbler study in contrasts, despite Panzer Bebop.

Sharrock overdubbed himself for the solo Guitar (february 1986), achieving both his most challenging technique and emotional pathos in the four-movement suite Princess Sonata. He then partnered with rock bassist Melvin Gibbs and avantgarde drummer Pheeroan Aklaff for Seize the Rainbow (may 1987), that attempted a fusion of heavy metal and fusion jazz (a ten-minute version of Fourteen).

In the meantime, Last Exit's punk-jazz achieved a different kind of intensity on The Iron Path (1988), a set of ten short pieces, and the live Headfirst Into The Flames (1989).

Sharrock also played on two albums by Machine Gun, a free-form improvising group, Machine Gun (1988) and Open Fire (1989). The duets of Faith Moves (1990) with rock guitarist Nicky Skopelitis (on several different stringed instruments) sounded like an indulgent version of Guitar. A synthesizer and inferior material plagued Highlife (october 1990).

A quartet with two free-jazz veterans, Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones, on Ask the Ages (1991) restored Sharrock's status as a unique guitarist and composer (Promises Kept, Many Mansions) and pushed it to new insane heights.

Whatthefuckdoyouwant (march 1987) documents a collaboration between Peter Brotzmann and Sonny Sharrock.

Sharrock died in 1994 at 53 of a heart attack.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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