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Elliott Sharp

Elliott Sharp is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and performer.

A key figure in the avant-garde and experimental music scene in New York City for over thirty years, Sharp has released over sixty-five recordings ranging from blues, jazz, and orchestral music to noise, no wave rock, and techno music. He pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction, as well as the use of computers in live improvisation with his Virtual Stance project of the 1980s. He is an inveterate performer, playing mainly guitar, saxophone and bass clarinet. Sharp has led many ensembles over the years, including the blues-oriented Terraplane and Orchestra Carbon.

Sharp describes himself as a lifelong "science geek,"[1] having modified and created musical instruments from his teen years.

Sharp attended Cornell University from 1969 to 1971, studying anthropology, music, and electronics. He completed his B.A. degree at Bard College in 1973, where he studied composition with Benjamin Boretz and Elie Yarden; jazz composition, improvisation, and ethnomusicology with trombonist Roswell Rudd; and physics and electronics with Burton Brody. In 1977 he received an M.A. from the University at Buffalo, where he studied composition with Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller, and ethnomusicology with Charles Keil.

From the late '70s, Sharp established himself in New York's music scene. His compositions have been performed by the Symphony of the Hessischer Rundfunk, the Ensemble Modern, Continuum, the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, Zeitkratzer, the Soldier String Quartet, and the Quintet of the Americas. He releases music under his own label (zOaR music) as well as punk label SST and downtown music labels such as Knitting Factory records and John Zorn's Tzadik label. Guitar Player magazine's 30th anniversary issue included Sharp among their list of "The Dirty Thirty - Pioneers and Trailblazers".

He has collaborated regularly with many people, including Christian Marclay, Eric Mingus, Zeena Parkins, Vernon Reid, Bobby Previte, Joey Baron, David Torn, Nels Cline, and Frances-Marie Uitti, as well as qawaali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, blues legend Hubert Sumlin, and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka. He also curates the State of the Union compilations of one-minute tracks by experimental musicians, and produces records for numerous artists.


Album Review

Ivo Perelman: Artificial Intelligence

Read "Artificial Intelligence" reviewed by Jeff Schwartz

Do not be misled by the title: no bots or algorithms were involved in creating this album. While there have been fascinating experiments in improvisation with interactive software by George Lewis, Richard Teitelbaum and others, Artificial Intelligence is just under an hour of spontaneous human interaction by two of the most prolific and uncategorizable improvisers in New York. This is a studio recording of free improvisation, from January 2022. There are no compositions, and if there are ...

Album Review

Ivo Perelman and Elliott Sharp: Artificial Intelligence

Read "Artificial Intelligence" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Saxophonist Ivo Perelman has mastered the art of duets. In addition to multiple collaborations with pianist Matthew Shipp, in the third decade of the 21st century he released two box-sets of one-on-one recordings, the first with pianists and the second with other woodwind players. On Artificial Intelligence he is paired with composer and guitarist Elliott Sharp for an entirely improvised four-part set of provocative music. The versatile Sharp, an experimenter par excellence, is immediately in sync with Perelman ...

Liner Notes

Andrew Cyrille, Elliot Sharp, Richard Teitelbaum: Evocation

Read "Andrew Cyrille, Elliot Sharp, Richard Teitelbaum: Evocation" reviewed by Howard Mandel

Evocation is what all writing about music must be about and may be the mission of music itself. To create an impression, to summon a memory or tender a suggestion of presence using materials that are not substantially those of the endeavor's subject--isn't that the fundamental purpose of any art? Not to be pretentious or obscure the thing itself: It must be said that master drummer Andrew Cyrille, guitarist-reedist Elliott Sharp and Richard Teitelbaum, the pioneering electronic music ...

Album Review

Wayne Horvitz: Live Forever Vol. 1: The President - New York in the '80s

Read "Live Forever Vol. 1: The President - New York in the '80s" reviewed by Vic Albani

«Numero 1 della Live Forever Series: una collezione di spettacoli dal vivo curata da Wayne Horvitz e Toby Dodds. Il volume 1 contiene un imperversante set dal vivo al CBGBs nel 1987, con un “who's who" della scena downtown NY degli anni '80. Altre tracce includono quattro demo, materiale mai pubblicato dalle sessioni al Power Station per l'album Bring Yr Camera, precedenti demo in studio del 1984, e materiale da due spettacoli dal vivo, sempre al CBGBs, nel ...

Album Review

Saadet Türköz, Elliott Sharp: Kumuska

Read "Kumuska" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

La relazione musicale tra la cantante turco-kazaka e il chitarrista statunitense, iniziata un ventennio fa nel quintetto che registrò Marmara Sea (Intakt 1999) ritorna con una collaborazione a due, non meno singolare e affascinante della precedente. L'universo vocale di Saadet, carico di suoni ancestrali e profonde connessioni col folklore dell'Asia centrale, trova in Sharp il partner ideale per un'indagine che è al tempo stesso arcaica e contemporanea. A differenza del disco precedente qui domina un clima più intenso, caratterizzato da ...

Album Review

Elliott Sharp: Syzygy

Read "Syzygy" reviewed by Don Phipps

Immaculately recorded by Italian label Dodicilune, Elliott Sharp's Syzygy continues Sharp's explorations of spontaneous and improvisatory sound. He and his collaborators offer up studio versions of Syzygy on the first disc and live versions of the material on disc two. As much modern classical as abstract jazz, it is the musical textures and abstractions that give the album its dream-like eeriness. The instrumentation offers a twist as well—eschewing drums, Sharp populates his music with computer devices, “objects," and ...

Album Review

Elliott Sharp: Chansons Du Crepuscule

Read "Chansons Du Crepuscule" reviewed by Don Phipps

In Chansons Du Crepuscule, the French multi-genre vocalist, harpist, composer and improvisor Helene Breschand hooks up with the multi-genre New York guitarist Elliott Sharp to yield spell-binding music of the first order. This fascinating collaboration crosses musical genres as easily as a nuthatch jumps from a birch tree to a cedar and then to a hickory. But since jazz has elements of all music embedded within its frame work, it's not a significant leap to suggest that Chansons Du Crepuscule ...

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