Sunday, August 24, 2008
Sonny Sharrock - Black Woman (1969)
What more can possibly be said about Sonny Sharrock? It is widely agreed upon that he is the greatest free jazz guitarist, period. He worked within the most important circles of the jazz world from the late ’60s until his death in 1994, playing with Dave Burrell, Norris Jones (a.k.a. Sirone), Milford Graves (all of whom appear on this record), as well as Peter Brötzman, Ronald Shannon Jackson, John Zorn, Miles Davis (he has an uncredited appearance on A Tribute to Jack Johnson), Byard Lancaster, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders, and Herbie Mann. Since jazz musicians are often judged more by who they played with than what they played, those credentials alone are probably enough to solidify his place in the out-jazz canon.
But who he’s playing with doesn’t even matter; Sharrock’s playing is so unique and powerful that it immediately demands attention. Less about chords and blues licks than bends, swells, swerves, tremolos, slides, and general mind-meltingness, he approaches the guitar as a purely melodic instrument. Even more impressive is his use of effects – there are none. Unlike many of the fusion guitarists of the time who needed their heavy distortion or phasors or wah-wahs or anything else, Sharrock is content to just let his guitar and amp talk.