Warren Harding "Sonny" Sharrock (1940 – 1994) was one of few guitarists in the first wave of free jazz in the 1960s. He was known for his incisive, heavily chorded attack, his 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 legendary 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."
Highlife was Sonny Sharrock's first studio album in three years, and it bore witness to several slight modifications in the guitarist's approach. Sharrock seems to be searching for ways to push his music forward, as he begins going farther afield for material and revisiting his past in the process. In addition to three full-fledged originals, he covers two traditional folk songs, the West African standard "Highlife" (learned in one of his earliest gigs with drummer Babatunde Olatunji) and the Harry Belafonte-associated "All My Trials"; he adapts several themes from Kate Bush's prog pop hit "Wuthering Heights" into "Kate"; and he returns to his legendary appearance on Pharoah Sanders' Tauhid album with a medley of two Sanders themes, "Venus/Upper Egypt."
1. No More Tears 2. All My Trials 3. Chumpy 4. Highlife 5. Kate (Variations on a Theme by Kate Bush) 6. Venus / Upper Egypt 7. Your Eyes 8. Giant Steps
The attitude of the gallant Six Hundred which so aroused Lord Tennyson's admiration arose from the fact that the least disposition to ask the reason why was discouraged by tricing the would-be inquirer to the triangle and flogging him into insensibility.
Advance to Barbarism
(Mitre Press, 1968).
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