Song of the Day: Sonny Sharrock “Who Does She Hope To Be?”
Sonny Sharrock is one of those rare musicians who managed to completely redefine the sonic possibilities of his instrument. He wielded his guitar, in his own words, like a “fucked-up horn”, unleashing torrents of noise interspersed with a unique harmonic sensibility. Despite the sonic cacophony that surrounded his playing (and Sharrock loved noise and guitar fuzz), Sharrock always managed to drive the melody through the center of his music, like a stake into the heart of a vampire. He incorporated everything from free jazz, to bits of heavy metal to the delta (the times when he unleashed his formidable slide guitar playing raise goosebumps to just think about them) into his playing. A big part of Sharrock‘s genius lay with his skill at incorporating droning bass notes – naturally suggested by the mechanics of the guitar. Though he may have conceptualized the guitar like a horn, his approach to music could only really be achieved through the guitar.
Sharrock never had an easy time throughout his career. Despite early notoriety playing with the likes of Herbie Mann, Roy Ayers, Pharaoh Sanders and a couple of unaccredited cameos for Miles Davis (notably on the Bitches Brew and Tribute to Jack Johnson albums), Sharrock‘s solo records as a leader and with his wife Linda Sharrock, never sold very well. As jazz grew more commercial in the late 70s, Sharrock‘s avant playing fell out of favor and he found himself working as a chauffeur and semi-retired from music. Eventually, bassist/ producer/ musical impresario, Bill Laswell helped to resurrect Sharrock‘s career, returning him from musical exile to play in the avant-disco group Material and the free-jazz nightmare machine, No Exit. He also helped Sharrock land a gig doing the theme music for the pioneering Cartoon Network show Space Ghost Coast to Coast and to curate a series of solo LPs for Sharrock that peaked with the 1991 album, Ask The Ages.
Ask The Ages used the building blocks of the the numerous solo albums that Sharrock had cut throughout the 80’s with Laswell‘s help to help Sharrock create what many consider to be his masterpiece. The record saw him re-teamed with his old friend, Pharaoh Sanders as well as powerhouse drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Charnett Moffett. Sharrock brought an incredible collection of songs to the table and found his co-conspirators on the project to be ideally suited to helping him carry out his creative vision. The album was widely celebrated among jazz fans and critics and helped to fully restore Sharrock‘s reputation as a leading light of jazz.
“Who Does She Hope To Be?” is a brilliant and haunting downbeat ballad from the record that features one of the most beautiful melodies Sharrock ever composed. Sharrock‘s playing alongside Pharaoh Sanders (who mostly provides gorgeous harmonic counterpoint to Sharrock on this cut) is both melodic and fiery. Moffett also kicks in a brilliant, driving bass solo for good measure.
Sadly, Ask The Ages proved to be Sonny Sharrock‘s last LP as he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of only 53. But what an album to go out on!