Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp expresses music through his own personal filter. He does this in the postmodern spirit: instead of assembling a collection of musical ideals, he adopts musical ideas rooted in the reaction to the restrictions and limitations of those musical ideals. In some highbrow sense that may describe what Ornette Coleman and late John Coltrane were attempting to do with not only jazz, but music in general.
Sharp takes blues, jazz and rock elements, combining them freeform to create what can, to the chagrin of his intentions, only be termed as 21st Century blues. His compositions, while not amorphous, tend to exhibit a gleeful freedom, further evidencing their postmodernist origins.
Sharp's approach of choice involves sliding a smooth surface over a stringed instrument. He is a slide guitarist on the order of Sonny Landreth, and a lap steel guitarist like Cindy Cashdollar. Sharp shows no fear in his attempts to summon what sounds from the instrument he can. He is careful to use precise engineering to do so, and the recording benefits from his efforts.
The songs collectively make up a free jazz tone poem. Individually, they are vignettes, passing musical thoughts reflecting convergent emotions. "The Say We Is is a Howlin' Wolf "Spoonful stroll propelled by Sharp's straight guitar playing. "Edifice Wrecked has a dirge-like construction reminiscent of a John Lee Hooker single-chord drone, except that its harmony is not based on a single chord. The drumming is primal and the reeds are noisy in a manner that's more pleasant than the approach of Archie Shepp or Sam Rivers. "On Down (as on the opener, "Highway Null ) has a down-home acoustic slide guitar feel. Sharp coaxes natural harmonics from the guitar.
Elliott Sharp is the guitar equivalent of John Zorn. That is fitting, as the two are friends and collaborators. Secret Life is a fine addition to the Elliott Sharp library. This is forward-thinking music which looks backward for inspiration.
Personnel: Elliott Sharp: guitars, tenor saxophone; Lance Carter: drums; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Alex Harding: baritone saxophones; David Hofstra: bass; Eric Mingus: vocals; Tracie Morris: vocals; Hubert Sumlin: guitar.