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Elliott Sharp Trio: Aggregat

Robert Bush By

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Elliott Sharp is a musical provocateur of the highest order. Having developed his own distinctive voice on a wide variety of instruments, on Aggregat he focuses on tenor and soprano saxophones and guitar.

His trio-mates were wisely selected. Double bassist Brad Jones has illuminated sessions by everyone from pianist Muhal Richard Abrams to pop-vocalist Sheryl Crow. Ches Smith is one of the most astonishing young drummers to hit the New York City jazz scene in quite some time, and his recent work with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and clarinetist Ben Goldberg showcase a singular talent.

Jones' muscular, loping bass and Smith's skittering drums underpin Sharp's temporarily golden-toned tenor on the opening "Nucular" (spelled the way ex-US President George W. Bush pronounced it). As Smith dials up waves of clicks, clacks and asymmetrical drum rolls, Sharp begins to unhinge—first with comical slap-tongue effects building to startling multiphonics.

"Hard Landing," features gobs of drunken skronk guitar dominance, with pithy commentary by Smith and Jones. Sharp has a tendency to bend even the most unlikely of notes in machine-gun fashion, sending squalls of tortured ideas spiraling toward the ether. On the short "Mal Du Droit," Smith's tattooing rim-shots, off-centered hi-hat hisses and press-rolls drive Sharp's grainy soprano saxophone lines into long streams that shorten into what sounds like duck-calls in its under two-minute timeframe.

"The Grip," is an instant highlight. Jones' pliant and brisk walking inspire Smith to come as close as he gets to standard jazz drumming, while Sharp's guitar layers over the free-bop framework with a strangely grooving, distortion laced series of rhythmic hieroglyphs that somehow manage to swing. "Gegenschein," on the other hand, begins with Sharp's post-Albert Ayler tenor— launching into squawks, screams and dog-whistle yelps which Jones responds to by making his bass strings sound like rubber-bands against the fingerboard, in the manner of Cecil McBee, while Smith plays off the melodic contours. Suddenly, the gears shift dramatically, and Jones lays down a slinky ostinato, Smith a swirling figure-eight brushstroke and Sharp sets off with burnished saxophone iterations like Sonny Rollins trying to get busy with an "outchick."

Other highlights include the hornet-nest-on-fire drama of "Global Swarming," in which tenor, arco bass and drums lock into a nervous scuffle, and the arena-rock-guitar-on-acid heroics of "Satan Sandwich," which would fit into the soundtrack for an action-movie nicely.

This is probably not for the faint-hearted, but for those who love a sonic adventure, it's hard to top Aggregat for highly musical fun.

Track Listing: Nucular; Hard Landing; Mal Du Droit; The Grip; Allelia; Gegenschein; Refractory; Global Swarming; Positronics; Estuary; Figure Of Speech; Satan Sandwich.

Personnel: Elliott Sharp: tenor and soprano saxophones, electric guitar; Brad Jones: bass; Ches Smith: drums.

Title: Aggregat | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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