Thursday, July 22, 2010

Elliott Sharp: Solo Electric Guitar, Played His Way

Elliott Sharp, guitar pioneer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, has always seemed to go his own way, in the process becoming a major presence in the now globally recognized downtown music enclave. He's successfully created Sharpesque interpretations of the blues, composed and performed exciting works for both small and large ensembles, hosted a web radio show of great diversity and discernment for MOMA's PS1 web site, among other things. He's also recorded a series of improvisations for solo guitar.

Octal Book Two (Clean Feed CFG 004) finds Mr. Sharp on his Koll 8-string electro-acoustic guitar, which has both conventional and bass guitar strings. Without overdubs he creates a kind of suite of guitar events, each concentrating on various avant and conventional techniques that Sharp uses. Some he has developed in his own way; others, like harmonics, feedback sustain, and hammerings, he adapts to his own purposes.

What distinguishes Sharp's music from some other unaccompanied solo avant guitar efforts is that each event to a lesser or greater degree concentrates on a melodic cell, scalular passage or quasi-riff. The music is freely articulated but not free in the stream-of consciousness manner. It is Elliott's strong sense of structure that gives the listener clear musical sign-posts through the avant sound thicket (at least that is so for me). Each is a semi-miniature impro-compositional gem. He does not eschew repetition, and much of the music features dynamically invigorating cascades of rapidly articulated repeated lines. This of course is a feature of Elliott Sharp's style and it is paired down to a single solo voice for this outing.

It shows that Elliott Sharp's motor-sensory brilliance has in no sense abated. He is vital still.

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