Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sonny Sharrock - 1970 - Monkey-Pockie-Boo

Sonny Sharrock 

01. 27th Day
02. Soon
03. Monkey-Pockie-Boo

Sonny Sharrock: guitar, slide whistle, vocal, composer
Linda Sharrock: vocal, composer
Beb Guérin: bass
Jacques Thollot: drums

The follow up to Sharrock’s masterful debut ‘Black Woman’ is a giant leap away from his melodic and Afro-Jazzy beginnings. A positive or negative one is, and should always be left to the individual listener to decide.

For me, Monkey-Pockie Boo-Boo is one of the few truly ‘Free’ Jazz outings that doesn’t make me feel that sense of restlessness and unease that others do.  On the first sidelong track ‘27th Day’ we hear the use of the bowed bass and the chiming tambourine that slowly builds into the fast patter of drums make for an eerie yet warm bed and foundation. Really nice and dark and textural, reminding me, in moments, of the Tauhid sessions, Sharrock was involved in with Pharaoh Sanders. Perhaps inspiration for this.

Lain upon this, though not gently but rather abruptly, is the quirky and unmistakable sound of the slide whistle which mimics the long and screeching vocal intonations being hollered (not always sung) by Sharrocks then wife Linda. Shrieks and screams and drawn out wails that have no words but ahhhhh!! and oooohhhhh!! which on the first track are really effective and stirring.

Its on the second side opener that we get the more extreme and aggressive version of side ones fragile progressive build. The track ‘Soon’ is a chaotic swirl of the shrieking voice mixed with Sharrock’s proto-Noise Rock guitar that is just distorted enough to help with the blend.

The drummer (Jacques Thollot) and the Bass player (Beb Guerin) do an absolutely superb job and keeping the recording sparse while still achieving such a strong supportive spine for the Sharrock’s thrashing about and in some ways, they, to me, are the unsung stars of this recording.

The closing title track is a more abstract Jazz based around the improvised movements of the drum and bass playing in an Avant Garde, Music Concrete sort of style. Popping and plucking and stabbing percussively while Linda Sharrocks more harmonious vocalising fills the spaces and Sonny tinkers away in the background with a slightly distended guitar sound.  Its a welcomed reprieve from the chaotic ‘Soon’ and winds the album down nicely. 

Monkey-Pockie-Boo was recorded in Paris in 1970 and released on the actuel BYG label and is these days considered to be one of the highlights of the catalog for the label.

Not an easy listen and certainly not for everyone, but i urge jazz fans to check it out as it is really accessible record as far as ‘Free Jazz’ is concerned.

Sonny Sharrock - 1969 - Black Woman

Sonny Sharrock
Black Woman

01. Black Woman            
02. Peanut         
03. Bialero         
04. Blind Willie         
05. Portrait Of Linda In Three Colors, All Black     

Sonny Sharrock (guitar)
Linda Sharrock (vocals)
Ted Daniel (trumpet)
Dave Burrell (piano)
Norris Jones, Richard Pierce (bass instrument)
Milford Graves (drums)

Warren Harding "Sonny" Sharrock (August 27, 1940 – May 26, 1994) was an American jazz guitarist. He was once married to singer Linda Sharrock, with whom he sometimes recorded and performed.

One of few guitarists in the first wave of free jazz in the 1960s, Sharrock was known for his incisive, heavily chorded attack, his highly amplified bursts of wild feedback, and for his use of saxophone-like lines played loudly on guitar.

Sharrock began his musical career singing doo wop in his teen years. He collaborated with Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Solla in the late 1960s, appearing first on Sanders's 1966 effort, Tauhid. He made several appearances with flautist Herbie Mann and also made an uncredited guest appearance on Miles Davis's A Tribute to Jack Johnson, perhaps his most famous cameo.

He had in fact wanted to play tenor saxophone from his youth after hearing John Coltrane play on Davis's album Kind of Blue on the radio at age 19, but his asthma prevented this from happening. Sharrock said repeatedly, however, that he still considered himself "a horn player with a really fucked up axe."

Three albums under Sharrock's name were released in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s: Black Woman (which has been described by one reviewer as bringing out the beauty in emotions rather than technical prowess[2]), Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and an album co-credited to both Sonny and his wife, Paradise (an album by which Sharrock was embarrassed and stated several times that it was not good and should not be reissued)

After the release of Paradise, Sharrock was semi-retired for much of the 1970s, undergoing a divorce from wife/occasional collaborator Linda in 1978. In the intermittent years until producer/bassist Bill Laswell coaxed him out of retirement, he worked as both a chauffeur and a caretaker for mentally challenged children. At Laswell's urging, Sharrock appeared on Material's (one of Laswell's many projects) 1981 effort, Memory Serves. In addition, Sharrock was a member of the punk/jazz band Last Exit, together with Peter Brötzmann, Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson. During the late 1980s, he recorded and performed extensively with the New York-based improvising band Machine Gun, as well as leading his own bands. Sharrock flourished with Laswell's help, noting in a 1991 interview that "the last five years have been pretty strange for me, because I went twelve years without making a record at all, and then in the last five years, I've made seven records under my own name. That's pretty strange."

Laswell would often perform with the guitarist on his albums, and produced many of Sharrock's recordings, including the entirely solo Guitar, the metal-influenced Seize the Rainbow, and the well-received Ask the Ages, which featured John Coltrane's bandmates Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones. "Who Does She Hope To Be?" is a lyrical piece harkening back to the Coltrane/Davis Kind Of Blue sessions that had inspired him to play. One writer described Ask the Ages as "hands down, Sharrock's finest hour, and the ideal album to play for those who claim to hate jazz guitar." Sharrock is perhaps best known for the soundtrack to the Cartoon Network program Space Ghost Coast to Coast with his drummer Lance Carter, one of the last projects he completed in the studio before his death. The season 3 episode "Sharrock" carried a dedication to him at the and, and previously unheard music that he had recorded for the show featured throughout most of the episode. "Sharrock" premiered as the 23rd episode on March 1, 1996 on Cartoon Network.

In 1994, Sharrock died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his hometown of Ossining, New York, just as he was on the verge of signing the first major label deal in his entire career. He was 53. He left behind his wife of 11 years, Nettie and his daughter, Jasmyn. He is interred at the Dale Cemetery in Ossining, New York.

Sonny Sharrock - Black Woman
by Julio Desouza
for Stylus Magazine

For better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

Sonny Sharrock was born in New York in 1940. He started playing in doo wop groups before even listening to jazz but an encounter with Ornette Coleman’s music (“Lonely Woman was the first thing that struck me”) changed his musical interests. Further hours spent in the company of records from the likes of Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane eventually led him to participate in studio sessions with artists such as Pharoah Sanders and Marzette Watts.

Which leads us to his first album as leader: and what a wonderful team that is assembled here! His wife Linda (vocals), drummer Milford Graves, David Burrell on piano and Norris Jones on bass. The title track starts off with Linda’s vocalising and Sharrock going through a set of meaty note runs on his guitar with backing from Gary Sharrock on bells and Milford on percussion. ‘Peanut’ begins with start-stop interplay, Sonny’s guitar work is more spidery and one of the many highlights is the way that he connects with Milford’s Shiva like drum patterns. Once Linda comes back, her chanting truly scars. The final section is announced by Dave Burrell’s zig zagging piano chords. All take their solo but all go back to contribute restlessly to the group once that solo ends. The whole thing is wonderfully executed.

His approach to the guitar, like Hendrix, has something of the blues, especially in the way that its directness is applied, in the way that one electrified note was made to count, but that’s where the similarities end. Sharrock explores a different sound world, not only because he improvises in a jazz rather than in a rock context. Hendrix, as ‘Electric Ladyland’ shows, also was more for exploring what the studio and songwriting had to offer. Sharrock had different ideas, as on the track ‘Blind Willy’ (how’s that for a blues reference?), where he is happy enough to extract simple, crystal clear tones from his acoustic guitar, before introducing more compressed notes (?!) notes into the solo.

Listening to the whole record, the impression gained is of a guitarist who allows others to have their say, who thinks nothing of NOT playing a note for a couple of minutes, this isn’t just all out, backs against the wall, ‘fire’ music (a clumsy term that lumps a lot of this music together, a rather lame attempt to get Sonic Youth fans to buy these records). Listening, and just listening, is a skill that is required too, and that is what is being shown here (many guitarists, who ‘jam’ non-stop, for 20 minutes should take note).

Linda’s vocalising throughout this album is more varied than in ‘Monckie-Pockie-boo’, a session recorded in BYG’s studio with a couple of french musicians for backing (Sharrock also plays the slide whistle on that record). Her vocals are stretched more here, and this is demonstrated to stunning effect in the closing track (where the trumpet is the only horn making its one and only appearance on the record). She doesn’t just screech, but she hollers, shouts, she sings (!) more, the effect of her improvising with Milford and Sharrock really pushes her to where few vocalists have been. They are all fully wired into each other and so is the listener.

Miroslav Vitous - 1977 - Miroslav

Miroslav Vitous 

01. Watching The Sunset Run
02. Bassamba
03. Tiger In The Rain
04. Concerto In E Minor
05. Pictures From Moravia
06. Sonata For A Dream

Miroslav Vitous : acoustic bass (arco&pizzicato), piano, electric piano, mini-moog, ARP string ensemble
Don Alias : congas, bongos, drums, percussion (except on 6)
Armen Halburian : percussion (on 6)

This effort by Miroslav is an excellent example of an artist moving in a new direction. It is a link between his early seventies fusion explorations and the ECM type sound he becomes synonomous with in the late seventies and early eighties. This album bridges the gap between those two sounds and, in doing so, has a unique sound of its' own. It seems that Miroslav was starting to find his voice on this album.

Miroslav Vitous - 1976 - Majesty Music

Miroslav Vitous 
Majesty Music

01. X Rated
02. See You, November
03. Majesty Music
04. New Orleans
05. Do You, Don't You, Won't You
06. Best Friends
07. Streams And Fields
08. Folks
09. Mount Shasta (Part II)
10. Requiem For My Mother

Bass - Francesco Centeno
Bass, Double Bass, Piano, Electric Piano, Clavinet, Guitar, Synthesizer, Producer - Miroslav Vitous
Drums - Bobby Goldman , Gerry Brown , Lenny White
Electric Piano, Synthesizer - Kenny Bichel
Electric Piano, Vocals - Rimona Francis
Percussion, Congas - David Earl Johnson
Saxophone, Flute - Jaroslav Jakubovic

First time on CD for this 1976 album from the jazz great. Miroslav Vitous is one of the premiere bass players in all of jazz music. At age 6 Miroslav started with the violin and switched to the piano at age 9. He then finally settled on playing the bass at age 14. He came to the United States in 1966 and became part of the New York Jazz scene. In 1970 he formed the band Weather Report and three years later formed the Miroslav Vitous Group. This album features Lenny White, David Earl Johnson and Gerry Brown.

Miroslav Vitous - 1976 - Magical Shepherd

Miroslav Vitous
Magical Shepherd

01. Basic Laws 11:46
02. New York City 9:32
03. Synthesizers Dance 5:09
04. Magical Shepherd 6:09
05. From Far Away 2:30
06. Aim Your Eye 6:57

Bass, Guitar - Miroslav Vitous
Drums - Jack DeJohnette , James Gadson
Keyboards - Herbie Hancock
Percussion - Airto Moreira
Vocals - Cheryl Grainger

Music there is great but far from what prog fans would like to hear under " jazz rock" tag. Only a real progressive fusion fans can easily imagine this album's content when I will say that year is 1976 and Vitous collaborators on this album are Herbie Hancock, Airto Moreira and Jack DeJohnette (between others).
Nearest shot is Headhunters, and Hacock's keys sound very similar there. Vitous plays guitar beside of bass there, but his main contribution is groove deep dark funky bass line. All music is quite similar to Headhunters sound of similar time, but even if Hancock's keys sound is easily recognisable, main accent is done on rhythm section there.

It's interesting, that even playing similar pure jazz-funk, because of specific rhythm section album often has almost zeuhl groove. Many songs have vocals, something between funky/pre- disco ones, but even voices are more jazzy, than soul-like.

In all, distilled product of early progressive jazz-funk era, this release really is a strong one and should be placed between best Hancock solo releases of same genre. Not recommendable for fans with allergy to funk vibes though.

Miroslav Vitous - 1970 - Purple

Miroslav Vitous 


01. Purple
02. Mood
03. Water Lilie
04. Dolores
05. It Came From Knowhere

Bass - Miroslav Vitous
Drums - Billy Cobham
Electric Piano - Joe Zawinul , Miroslav Vitous (tracks: 3, 5)
Guitar - John McLaughlin

Recorded at Apostolic Studio, NYC, August 25, 1970

Purple is the missing link between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. Purple is a stepping stone, and totally underrated at that. Play Loud!

Miroslav Vitous - 1970 - Infinite Search

Miroslav Vitous 
Infinite Search

01. Freedom Jazz Dance
02. Mountain In The Clouds
03. When Face Gets Pale
04. Infinite Search
05. I Will Tell Him On You
06. Epilogue

Bass - Miroslav Vitous
Drums - Jack DeJohnette , Joe Chambers
Electric Piano - Herbie Hancock
Guitar - John McLaughlin
Saxophone - Joe Henderson

Miroslav Ladislav Vitous (6 December 1947), is a Czech jazz bassist who was born in Prague. He begun play violin at age of six, started playing the piano at age ten, and bass at fourteen. He studied music at the Prague Conservatory subsequently winning an international music contest in Vienna, earning him a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. One of his early music groups was the Junior Trio with his brother Alan on drums and young another future-great Czech fusion musicianJan Hammer on keyboards.

A year later after he came to Boston, in 1966, Miroslav moved to New York & collaborated with musicians such as Bob Brookmeyer, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Charlie Mariano, and Herbie Mann. In 1970, the group WEATHER REPORT was formed along with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. After three years left the group due to musical differences. After brief break he formed Miroslav Vitous Group with John Surman, Kenny Kirkland and Jon Christensen, and recorded 3 albums for ECM. After 3 years group was disbanded.

Vitous has become a director of Jazz Department in New England Conservatory in Boston, and leads the department for 3 years. He reunited with Chick Corea and Roy Haynes (Trio Music): it was a very successful period for the trio for the following 2 and half years. Tours all over the world and 2 albums recorded for ECM is the outcome of this reunion.

After this time he made a very successful duet world wide tour with Stanley Clarke.

Makes several performances as a soloist with Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra and Music of Viva of Boston.

He recorded also a solo album for ECM ("Emergence").

In 1988 he moved back to Europe. Stopped teaching completely and became full time composer/performer, once again.

He made a lot of different projects with his band or solo, appeared at many festivals and concerts and participated in other projects with different top European musicians. After 22 years he returned to Prague and recorded an album with his brother Alan Vitous.

In March 1989 he started playing solo concerts. He wrote and performed concerts for Orchestra and solo bass in Frieburg (Germany) and Italy. Prior to the release of 'Universal Syncopations', he took a seven year break from performing to concentrate his efforts at making orchestral sample libraries. He was in search of electronic sounds to assist him in composing, but discovered what was available in the marketplace to be lacking in quality. As a result, Miroslav became consumed in producing the symphonic samples that he had been searching for, by sampling each solo player amongst an orchestra. "Sampling is an extremely expensive process, but allows me to compose more easily when ideas are fresh in my mind."

The result of being able to compose with the electronic samples, brought about the release of the album 'Universal Syncopations'. Miroslav knew beyond a doubt that Jack DeJohnette would be his drummer, since Jack was his favorite drummer for several decades and had participate in many collaborations. John McLaughlin was chosen for the work that he had done with Miles Davis in the seventies, and Miroslav wanted to tap into that evolutionary style and to take it up a notch. Chick Corea has asked for Miroslav's help on many of his previous albums, so this time it was Corea who was asked to collaborate. Jan Garbarek is Miroslav's favorite sax player, and they have an intuitive musical connection. This particular work captures the creative force in the sounds and motifs, and justaposes jazz and classical styles in a very open and free way.

Miroslav Vitous is probably most known for being part of WEATHER REPORT when they first started out, but he has a long resume. This is his first solo album released before WEATHER REPORT's debut which came out the following year. Miroslav is such a talented bass player but he also plays violin and keyboards, and when he was younger he was a world class free- style swimmer. In fact after winning a scholarship to Berklee College of Music he had to decide between swimming and music. Thankfully he chose the latter. The lineup on this album is such that you should be sitting down when you read off the names. John McLaughlin on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Joe Henderson on sax and Herbie Hancock on electric piano. Told you so. My first impression of this album was that it wasn't very dynamic. It's more Free-Jazz perhaps, certainly not in the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA style. And Vitous is very dominant here along with DeJohnette as the guitar, piano and sax come and go.
"Freedom Jazz Dance" opens with seemingly everyone being part of the sound. Very intricate stuff. Piano comes to the fore 3 minutes in. Bass is just throbbing away then the guitar takes the spotlight after 4 1/2 minutes. McLaughlin is ripping it up. Henderson's turn after 6 1/2 minutes. This is the most dynamic track. "Mountain In The Clouds" is a short tune with cymbals and bass leading early. Check out the bass and drums !

"When Face Gets Pale" opens with cymbals, bass, piano and intricate guitar. The bass is incredible here. Deep bass lines late. "Infinite Search" is led by bass, piano and drums. "I Will Tell Him On You" features sax, piano, bass and drums standing out early. Sax leads before 3 minutes. It gets pretty intense a minute later. Guitar takes the lead then piano 7 minutes in. Drums pound away after 8 1/2 minutes. "Epilogue" is the only track that DeJohnette isn't on, instead we get Joe Chambers. This one's fairly laid back as bass leads the way. Piano becomes more prominant 4 1/2 minutes in.

For me this is one of those albums you really have to pay attention to. It's not background music, you have to give attention to the detail.

Miroslav Vitous - 1970 - Green Line

Miroslav Vitous
Green Line

01. Melvin 8:48
02. Mr. Sheets at Night 7:05
03. Green Line 6:11
04. The Echoes 10:49

Miroslav Vitous: Bass
Sonny Sharrock: Guitar
Steve Marcus: Tenor and Ssoprano Saxophone
Daniel Humair: Drums

Truly stunning LP from four hungry young badasses in 1971.  Miroslav Vitous, Sonny Sharrock, Steve Marcus and Daniel Humair are all heavyweight cats captured in their youthful prime here, not a weak moment to be found. They each just sound so great! Vitous really stands out with a ton of seriously sick bass viol action--what's up with those simultaneous arco and pizzicato parts?!  He's just exploding on the groove in "Melvin", with Sharrock doing a perfect lean funky part, holding back to keep the groove simmering instead of blowing hard over it.  Vitous' solo in "Mr. Sheets at Night" is something else. It's a gorgeous piece with a bristling spirit underlying the ballad surface. This album is a bit overlooked in Sonny Sharrock's discography, probably because it was released as a co-billing for the quartet, alongside the fact it's more of a straightahead jazz album than the legendary freakbombs he'd dropped in the preceding years in cahoots with Queen Linda.  His explosions on side B make for some seriously essential listening for any Sharrock-head. All four cuts are distinctive gems, but "The Echoes" is the one track that is crossing the line for me, with an epic blowout that tastes good down to the last gnarly drop.  This is the real sound of jazz in 1970.