Sonny Sharrock / Aug 27, 1940 - May 25, 1994

Sonny Sharrock came around 'bout the same time as Jimi Hendrix and brought a fast & heavy string-shaking style into free jazz, with massive chords and rock energy. His sound & style contained elements of hard rock, doo-wop, funk, bop and soul, and he claims to model his playing after jazz saxophonists and John Coltrane in particular. (He claimed that asthma prevented him from playing a horn and that he thought himself "a horn player with a really fucked up axe".)

Warren Sharrock hailed from Westchester County NY and sang doo-wop as a teenager. He got into jazz and made his early records with Pharoah Sanders (Tauhid and Izipho Zam), Marzette Watts, Byard Lancaster's classic It's Not Up To Us and even played with Sun Ra and Olatunji in the '60s. He also appeared on Wayne Shorter's Super Nova in '69, Miles Davis' Tribute to Jack Johnson (uncredited), the band Brute Force, Steve Marcus, Don Cherry, Roy Ayers and others. His own masterpieces Black Woman (Milford Graves on drums!) and Monkey Pocky Boo are bonafide classics.

He was most visible on several records by Herbie Mann (note the live album Hold On, I'm Coming which allows Sharrock some freedom to go off) and collaborations with his vocalist wife Linda Sharrock. He laid low for much of the '70s but resurfaced with a vengeance in the '80s thanks to Bill Laswell, who worked often with Sonny in Material and especially the MONSTER free-jazz/hardcore outfit Last Exit (with Peter Brotzmann & Ronald Shannon Jackson).

He could also be found with the Japanese punk band The Stalin, Ginger Baker, Machine Gun, Pheeroan Aklaff, duo albums with Brotzmann and Nicky Skopelitis, plus a solo album. His 1987 album Seize The Rainbow (with rock bassist Melvin Gibbs) brought heavy metal into the music and his Ask The Ages album (with Elvin Jones on drums) was a late classic. His final work was music for the cartoon Space Ghost. He remains a hugely influential guitarist. In fact, where would Sonic Youth be without him?

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