Black Woman

Sonny Sharrock

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Black Woman Review

by Wilson McCloy

Black Woman documents Sonny Sharrock's temporary departure from the confines of Herbie Mann's always invaluable patronage. Around the time of recording, Sharrock was struggling to express his own musical ideas within the rigid framework of the successful Mann bands. Black Woman marks an early opportunity for Sharrock's own voice to be heard; he composed all the songs except "Bailero" and personally chose the band to reflect his own interests. The music is full of Sharrock's skittering, trademark clusters of notes and remains at a consistently high-intensity level with Linda Sharrock, Milford Graves, and Teddy Daniel on board. At times the music reaches for the sublime as on "Peanut" with its mandolin-like, vibrato theme and otherworldly improvisations; can music evoke visions like Dante's Rings of Hell? The beauteous "Bialero" with piano and bass figures oscillating around Linda's lilting yet unpredictable voice and "Portrait of Linda in Three Colors, All Black" are Sonny Sharrock in glory. Linda Sharrock's vocals could be alarming to the uninitiated; she doesn't enunciate a single word throughout, except on the traditional "Bialero," instead using her instrument, her voice to express, like her husband does, the inexpressible: those emotions, passions, or exaltations that cannot be rationally shared, only referred to comparatively vaguely by the "knower." The results in this instance were later dubbed "energy music" by some well-intentioned critic. This album is not for everyone, even Sonny Sharrock fans may find the music beyond their wildest expectations.

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