Search - Sonny Sharrock :: Ask the Ages

Ask the Ages
Sonny Sharrock
Ask the Ages
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1

Guitarist Sharrock's final album--he died at the tragically young age of 53 in 1994--reveals his music once more in all its roaring glory. Seemingly one of John Coltrane's less likely successors, Sharrock indeed found a ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Sonny Sharrock
Title: Ask the Ages
Members Wishing: 9
Total Copies: 0
Label: Axiom
Release Date: 8/6/1991
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Modern Postbebop, Bebop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 042284895729, 042284895743

Guitarist Sharrock's final album--he died at the tragically young age of 53 in 1994--reveals his music once more in all its roaring glory. Seemingly one of John Coltrane's less likely successors, Sharrock indeed found a way to follow in Trane's musical bootprints with a cranked-up amp. This quartet session with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Elvin Jones works almost as a suite, with two cuts ("Little Rock" and "As We Used to Sing") apparently taken from the same long performance. On every cut, the combination of Sharrock and Sanders makes for a spiritual and aural honk inspiring in both its size and meaning. --Rickey Wright

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CD Reviews

A fitting elegy
m_noland | Washington, DC United States | 04/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Seize the Rainbow (1989), Highlife (1990), and Ask the Ages (1991), the last three studio recordings that guitarist Sonny Sharrock made before his untimely death in 1994 could be regarded as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. "Seize the Rainbow" is the most rock oriented, and indeed heavy metal listeners would feel right at home on the opening track, "Dick Dogs." This is a guitar record with a muscular rhythm section of Melvin Gibbs on electric bass and Abe Speller and/or Pheeroan Aklaff on drums. "Highlife" was recorded with Sharrock's touring band, and while never entirely checking his free jazz credentials at the door, the inclusion of keyboardist Dave Snider and an emphasis on song forms and the inclusion of recognizable tunes (the traditional "All My Trials" and British prog-rocker Kate Bush's "Cloudbusting"?!, identified in the track listings simply as "Kate") makes this a more broadly accessible disk - i.e. the one your wife doesn't tell you to turn down. "Ask the Ages" reunites Sharrock with fellow Coltrane acolytes Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones, and with Charnett Moffett on acoustic bass, they make the unusual line-up electric guitar/sax/drums/acoustic bass work. The compositions are more developed than the guitar rave-ups of "Seize the Rainbow" but more harmonically open-ended than the more pop-oriented material of "Highlife." The most firmly rooted in the jazz tradition of the three, "Ask the Ages" has an elegiac feel (especially the ballad "Who Does She Hope to Be?") and it is a sad though worthy close to Sharrock's career."
Easy classic. Real easy.
Leone Evangelista | out to lunch | 03/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the most under-recognized voices in modern jazz, Sonny Sharrock was among the first certifiably "free" guitarists. His forceful, often discomfiting playing favored harsh melodic contours and oblique modal harmonies--heavily influenced by the "energy" school of free jazz tenor saxophonists. He perfected a skittish, "shards of glass" technique equivalent to Albert Ayler's buzzsaw trills, as well as a formidable, unique approach to slide guitar. Sharrock, however, was a wildly eclectic musician, devoting as much time--on record--to soul-jazz and noise rock as more traditional "free" forms. Recorded after his return to the free scene as electrified "enfant terrible," "Ask the Ages" offers listeners an opportunity to hear Sharrock in a more familiar context. It just happens to be his masterpiece.

"Ask the Ages" stands apart from Sharrock's revolutionary 60's work for a variety of reasons. The compositions are among the best of the guitarist's career, informed by the tradition of Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but more wholly involved than much free writing of the 60's. Here, the leader is aided by producer Bill Laswell, whose penchant for multitracking endows Sharrock's tunes with a greater sense of depth. The backing band, too, is nothing to scoff at; Sharrock is joined by Sanders, bass dynamo Charnett Moffett, and Coltrane's former drummer, (the clinically BAD) Elvin Jones. This is perhaps the most combustible group of the guitarist's recording career, but the combo's more explosive tendencies are tempered by a fine sense of dynamics and subtlety. Sonny, though, is the star; his "mature" style, which coalesced upon his reemergence in the 80's, is a wonder to behold. There is a definite sense of gravitas to his lines, a dense, compelling logic neatly counterbalanced by weighty tone and a wildly idiosyncratic sense of melodic development. This is no skronk-fest; "Ask the Ages" is as finely constructed as any free jazz album in the canon, a gorgeous portrait of a master improviser in the prime of his life. Remarkable, considering the fact that it would be his final ("real") album.

Very highly recommended for fans of free jazz, free improvisation, and creative modern music in general. It honestly doesn't get any better than this."
An Album truly worthy of its High Asking Price......!!!!
fetish_2000 | U.K. | 08/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This album, being my only encounter (so far) with Sonny's work, is largely considered amongst his finest work, and although having long since been unavailable/Deleted, this is most definitely an album that is either (A) Worth tracking down, Second hand (which was what I did), or (B) Paying the high Prices charged by people selling their copies. Either way, it an album that's probably going to take a little effort to source. but this is more than worth the considerable effort.

"Promises Kept" is a truly jaw-dropping effort, it falls into wildly exuberant Free-jazz, that's particular upbeat and freeform, but with a truly engaging sense of musically expression and performance. it takes the best elements of jazz (particularly peak-ear "John Coltrane), and with the help of "Pharaoh Sanders" exceptional performances, melds slight elements with Avant-Garde composition, with the free flow of Jazz. An reviewer below, made a comment about the "saxophone solo being amongst the greatest modern saxophone solo ever recorded", and although I'm in no position to state that this is the case, I sure wouldn't say, that it wasn't a fairly accurate assessment. In fact I think that even more acknowledgement should be given to given to Coltrane Quartet drummer "Elvin Jones", who not only manages to play with a level of proficiency rarely seen throughout the album, but his drummer solo that closes out the latter half of this track, will go down as one of the great drum performances of recent memory.

"Who Does She Hope to Be?" is more in line with traditional Jazz-values and although it doesn't explore the more experimental ends of the Jazz genres, like a couple of the tracks here, its inclusion is more than justified by sublime down tempo warm performances that evoke the sense of a late night 'Film Noir' soundtrack piece. It's mood is one of atmospheric sax, reflective brushed drums and subtle bass. This although being the most traditional track in terms of composition, reminds of Miles Davis' more subtle moments, and admirably stands as a tremendous track in its own right after the utter brilliance of "Promises Kept".

"Many Mansions" takes more of a (slight) fusion approach, it starts as elegant jazz, and gradually over the course of the track, builds slowly and the arrangements become more fuller sounding, fleshing out into something approaching Post-Bop, with sweeping compositions and memorable themes, it certainly the work of a group of incredibly talented musicians playing to their strengths, but what truly impresses is the way that Sonny's electric guitar is very subtly introduced over the course of the track. So much so, that on the first listen or two, you may even miss it's introduction. There is no doubt that Sonny was a truly exceptional talent, as this is him playing with sincere subtly, and less of a showcase for his (stunning) guitar arrangements.

"Once upon a Time" is probably the track with a stronger elements of fusion/Avant-Jazz music than Free-Jazz. Sure this is a group largely of Jazz musicians performing here, but the approach feels more in tune with Avant-Jazz, than any form of contemporary Jazz. And here Sonny's exceptional guitar work, gets a little more room to stretch its legs, and shows him as a band leader of some considerable note. with tribal beats complementing the arrangements, of sonny's guitar chords. Which are given ample, adrenaline charged, endlessly cascading/ascending guitar lines, the energy of classic free jazz's soulful wail, this is one such piece that harkens to their past. And ends the album on a truly breath-taking & satisfyingly high note.

This is without doubt, a truly remarkable album, that becomes all the more precious after the passing over of such a talented figure, and if (like me) Free-Jazz, Avant-garde, Experimental-Jazz, Fusion, or just jazz in it's various forms appeal, then this is a unquestionably recommended title. But for those that aren't familiar with these genres of jazz, and their experience of jazz starts and stops at the more commercial end of Jazz, or aren't familiar with Bill Laswell's "Axiom" label (on which this album is on). Then for the high asking prices people are charging for this 'Out of Print' title, I'd have to suggest that you possibly consider passing on this and try something a little easier to get hold of (and ultimately far less expensive). As This is more of an enthusiasts album, and probably not such an idea for an (expensive) starting point to get into this music. But for the rest of you.....(and to be fair if your reading this review, about this Artist, then your probably fairly clued up). Beg, Steal, Borrow the money, to secure yourself a copy of this phenomenal album."