All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
Vocabulary is arguably the key ingredient in any entirely solo performance on any instrument other than the piano. Concert In Dachau is, perhaps, the best realized music Electroacoustic guitarist Elliott Sharp has ever committed to record. It's rare to get the chance to take in a musician's very thought processes as is possible here, and a by-product is Sharp's vocabulary being is thrown into stark relief. It's to his resounding credit that it's rich, varied and alive with nuance.
Over the course of four lengthy performances, he seems at times to be in a kind of dialogue with the music itself. There's a moment in "Dachau 1" where the sheer level of his engagement evokes a Terry Riley-like minimalism, but the sense is usurped in the face of the volume of Sharp's ideas and their degrees of resonance. He seems acutely appreciative, at such moments, of Derek Bailey's "in the moment" approach to solo guitar, the knowledge seeming to fuel his own creativity, and acting as a kind of spur to his playing.
In the opening passages of "Dachau 2," Sharp is preoccupied with the guitar's augmented vocabulary. Both strings and the ways in which they are to be manipulated result in music that could just as easily be the product of a duo as opposed to a solo performance. Here Sharp shows himself to be a player of finesse; it's that quality, however, which informs the changes the piece undergoes.
"Dachau 3" finds him more preoccupied with the nature of the electric properties of the guitar, in a manner that, more than anything else, here shows how alert he is to the potential it has to offer. A reflective air sometimes pervades, but such is Sharp's appreciation of musical construction that he never seems to lose sight of where the music is going. In that respect, at least, Sharp is taking his music to new places. The whole program is in essence a manifesto for restless creativity, even while on "Dachau Encore" Sharp evokes the spirit of Blind Willie Johnson with his dexterous slide playing.