Green Line Swinger

Steve Marcus, Miroslav Vitous, Sonny Sharrock, Daniel Humair
Green Line
Victor : 1970

Sonny Sharrock, electric guitar; Steve Marcus, tenor and soprano sax; Miroslav Vitous, bass; Daniel Humair, drums.

Two words about these tracks: Sonny Sharrock.

There simply isn’t enough material from the world’s greatest jazz guitarist. Green Line is a lost gem of his discography, offering some of his choicest playing in a terrific quartet setting. This collaborative group was fresh off a Japanese tour and firing on all cylinders when they hit the Tokyo studio in September 1970.

“Melvin,” composed by drummer Daniel Humair, is a groove tune spiked with infectious riffs and serious momentum. Over a funky bottom, Sharrock supplies some metronomic chicken scratch and Steve Marcus lays down impassioned-yet-breezy saxophone lines. Just try not to tap your foot. If that happens to be too smooth for you, our man Sonny comes along at the 4:20 mark to wreck the joint.

He cuts loose with what sounds like literal string shredding. It seems as if he’s trying to destroy and/or detune his instrument, all while unleashing frenetic barrages of notes, flailing purposefully out of rhythm, delivering punch-drunk pirouettes, and coaxing out of all sorts of bracing noise. In general, he destablizes the tune in the most compelling way. Jazz students please take note: That is a guitar solo!

“The Echos” [sic] is Sharrock’s own composition and an even more unhinged exploration of the electric guitar in a jazz context. Sharrock famously said he wanted his instrument to sound like a saxophone and mimic the effect of John Coltrane’s sheets of sound. His magnificently brutal solo here, laid down over a racket of rhythms, is one of the places where he most fully realizes that ambition. And the tune’s climax is pure heavy metal.

We’re giving short shrift to the amazing band here, all associates of Herbie Mann who show how they can cut loose when not under the finger of the Mann. Miroslav Vitous’s bass solos are concise marvels of controlled dissonance, Marcus alternates fluidly between taut lyricism and jaggedly angular runs, and Humair proves equally adept at funk grooves and splattering free time kit bashing.

Be sure to check out Sonny Sharrock’s web site and his discography page. Interesting to note the same year he cut Green Line, he also appeared on Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson, recorded his own Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and was a sideman on Brute Force. Not too shabby.

We’re assuming the album title has nothing to do with this green line, but maybe we’re wrong? And our post title obliquely pays tribute to this guitar demolishing meisterwerk.

We’re not as conversant in the recordings of Steve Marcus as we probably should be. What’re we missing? What’re his best records?

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Hello, previous customers and potential customers! Having completed our first quarter of sales — for which thanks! — it has become very clear that we have been underpricing the albums, especially in light of the costs associated with remastering those titles that were never issued on CD. While we understand the need to keep prices as low as possible, given everywhere else you might spend your hard-earned cash, we cannot do this at the expense of FMP, which has so far not broken even on the exchange. So, starting Thursday, 27 Jan, album pricing will rise to US$11.49 for everything, and there will be no introductory sales. This remains significantly cheaper than the usual prices of their CDs. We hope that you will still continue to shop the D:O store, and strongly encourage you to recommend any essential-yet-heretofore-unavailable FMP titles you’d like to see up for sale. Thanks, and back to the music…

Category Sonny Sharrock, Steve Marcus Tags , , , , , ,