Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Elliot Sharp’s Terraplane – Do the Don’t (Zoar, 2003)

Elliot Sharp is best known as a downtown New York experimental guitarist, associated with John Zorn’s loosely affiliated group of musicians. But he has also released some bluesy music before, most notably Blues for Next, a two disc set that came out in 2000. Joining Sharp on this disc is David Hofstra on bass, Sam Furnace on saxophones, Sim Cain on drums. Eric Mingus and Dean Bowman join the group for vocals on three songs, and blues legend and former Howlin’ Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin sits in on three tunes.

“Life in a Crackerbox” sets the tone for the disc, it’s a mix of traditional electric blues and Sharp’s experimental bent. Sharp plays some nice slide guitar that gradually gets wilder as the song goes on. “Lost Souls” features the vocals of Mingus and Bowman. They keep a gospelish groove going with a tale of greed and loss. Furnace gets a grinding alto solo while the rest of the band keeps a bubbling funk feel underneath. Sharp gets another nice solo; it’s interesting how he mixes the blues groove with his penchant for avant-garde experimentalism.

“Stop That Thing” finds Sumlin sitting in and playing some elegant and restrained guitar. “Scramble” starts with crunching guitar, giving way to nasty slide. Furnace drops in for an intense saxophone solo, channeling a little David S. Ware in the process. Sharp takes his solo way out, beginning with electronically altered guitar and then giving way to some greasy slide to take the song out. “Oil Blues” brings the vocalists back in to make a witty commentary about the energy crisis. “Please Don’t” is the centerpiece of the disc. Sumlin sits in and the band is hitting on all cylinders. The song jumps from the start with the band blasting out and the vocalists testifying about the perils of city life. Sharp breaks out a particularly fractured and snarling solo.

Sharp takes several interesting guitar solos which show his deep respect for the blues form without compromising his experimental nature. This is a very interesting disc and is recommended to adventurous blues fans.

Rating: 8

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