Magazine article Guitar Player

Elliott Sharp: Where Order Meets Chaos

Magazine article Guitar Player

Elliott Sharp: Where Order Meets Chaos

Article excerpt

Some improvisers open the floodgates, but have little control over where the water ends up. But Elliott Sharp, a mainstay of the New York underground for more than a decade, exudes precise control, deftly balancing improvisation and composition, classic idioms and unprecedented ones, order and chaos.

Few players are as articulate about music as the dauntingly intelligent guitarist/composer. Sharp often describes his musical processes in language drawn from the sciences, sounding at times more like a biologist, physicist or computer programmer than an electric guitarist But there's nothing cold or clinical about his playing; whether unleashing percussive, finger-tapped torrents on his Doug Henderson doubleneck, attacking his homemade tabletop guitar/zithers with metal rods, or coaxing pure Delta blues from an aged Martin, Sharp is the most visceral of guitarists. He's a bald intellectual, but he's no egghead.

Sharp's vast discography presents a bewildering assortment of project names and record labels. Elliott suggests starting with the last two Carbon CDs, Amusia and Interference, both on Atavistic [Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657]. "Carbon has always been my most personal project," he says. "It's where I work out concepts in a `rock band' format. Both records use a wide selection of guitar sounds and a fair amount of computer processing." Sharp also recommends the two string quartet compositions -- one augmented by fretless guitar -- on Xenocodex [Tzadik, dist. by Koch International, 2 Tri-Harbor Court, Port Washington, NY 11050] and Sferics on Berlin's Atonal label. "It's performed entirely on fretless guitar with no digital processing. It's dedicated to Sonny Sharrock, who was a friend and inspiration." Sharp has also released two extraordinary blues albums, Terraplane and Hoosegow [both on Homestead, available from Dutch East India Trading, Box 800, Rockville Centre, NY 11571], in which he conjures acoustic blues with startling depth and accuracy. …

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