Sonny Sharrock/The Freedom Sounds Featuring Wayne Henderson: Black Woman/People Get Ready (1966)
Every now and then a CD comes along which is so bizarre it defies all belief. Each session on this reissue is unusual on its own terms, but when put together makes for a rather strange listening experience.
Sonny Sharrock burst onto the jazz scene in the late sixties with a head full of avant-garde ideas and a guitar which sounded like it was strung with barbed wire. Experimental in every sense of the word, Sharrock has created an album which slaps you in the face and demands that you listen to it, although parts of it are more a test of endurance rather than a pleasurable listening experience. Although Sharrock would probably be pleased with this assessment, there is a very fine line between experimental and amateurish. Despite some interesting flamenco touches and what appears to be a psychedelic Irish jig, too much of this CD sounds like a bunch of monkeys let loose in a recording studio. Linda Sharrock is allowed to abrasively bellow, screech, and moan over most of the tracks and the biographical “Portrait of Linda in Three Colors” suggests that she spent most of her life being strangled. Sharrock may have gone on to bigger and better things, since many artists from diverse genres cite him as an influence. However, this session shows, warts and all, an artist still in the process of finding himself. It sounds like it must have been a long journey. Put this on at Halloween to scare the trick or treaters.
Oddly, this record is paired with The Freedom Sounds, who give a relatively straightforward reading of a handful of popular songs arranged for horns, sort of like Sly and the Family Stone without the vocals. The soloing is very soulful and passionate and a perfect way to cleanse the palate after Sharrock. The few originals generally have a Latin feel buoyed by the four percussionists. This is generally a very pleasant listen, but listeners looking for more traditional jazz are advised to look elsewhere.
Although both recordings are likely to appeal only to completists or fans, Collectables is to be commended for making these obscure sessions available to the public. No doubt somewhere out there, someone is drooling over these reissues. Kudos to those record labels brave enough to release sessions with a very limited audience.
Track Listing: Black Woman, Peanut, Biallero, Blind Willy, Portrait of Linda in Three Colors; All Black. Respect, People Get Ready, Cucamonga, Things Go Better, Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa (Sad Song), Brother John Henry, Orbital Velocity, Cathy the Cooker.
Personnel: On Black Woman-Sony Sharrock, guitar; Dave Burrell, piano; Norris Jones, bass; Milford Graves, drums; Linda Sharrock, vocals. On People Get Ready-Wayne Henderson, trombone; Al Abreu, saxes; Jimmy Benson, sax and flute; Pancho Bristol, electric bass; Harold Land, Jr., piano; Moises Oblagacion, congas; Ricky Chemelis, timbales; Max Gorduno, bongos; Paul Humphrey, drums.