AMN Capsule Comments: Mike Eisenberg’s Recent Playlist (July 15, 2021)

From time to time, AMN writer Mike Eisenberg revisits older albums that he has not listened to in a while and provides comments.

Sonny Sharrock – “Ask the Ages” (1991)

Gave this one a nice LOUD listen (and really, it’s the only way to “hear” this album). Recorded in 1991, produced by Bill Laswell, (so that will tell you something), it’s Sonny Sharrock on guitar, Pharoah Sanders on (unhinged) sax blowing, Charnett Moffett on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.

All players are on top of their game here, big time, especially Elvin. Sonny pretty much melts your face and Pharoah is untethered and plays like a wild horse. I was lucky enough to see Sonny in a duet with Peter Brötzmann at the Elbo Room in Chicago and it was terrifyingly good. Peter was blowing so hard his face during the whole show was a permanent shade of magenta and Sonny was shredding the hell out of his fretboard…mouth half-open as if he was going to recite some ancient incantation from the Necronomicon but thought twice about it because he was doing enough damage to the space / time continuum himself.

Richard Pinhas – “Chronolyse” (1978) 

My favorite solo album by one of my favorite musicians, Richard Pinhas. This is the 1978 album “Chronolyse”. To call him “just” a guitarist would be selling him short. To call him just a Fripp clone guitarist is criminal. He comes from a totally different headspace than Fripp. Overall, I think he’s more versatile and I also think more forward-thinking…it’s a shame he never got as “mainstream” as Fripp, I think he deserves it.

I love his short sequenced electronic vignettes that take up side one, but side two, the 30 minute “Paul Atreides” is one of the finest “wall of sound” monoliths ever fabricated. First and foremost, I think Richard Pinhas is an electronic musician who also happens to play a mean guitar, and on this long cut (with a band that includes drums, bass, multitracked guitars, and all kinds of electronic keyboards including what sounds like mellotron) all the pieces just mesh to create a HEAVY scorched earth, very crowded soundscape. Listen Loud Plz.

Don Pullen – “Random Thoughts” (1990) 

Maybe I just don’t move in the right jazz circles, but pianist Don Pullen is a name that I rarely hear mentioned. He’s probably best known for his Mingus connection, and he’s also known as an “Avant Garde” type of player, often being compared to the much more popular Cecil Taylor.

Pullen deserves more recognition, and the 1990 Blue Note release “Random Thoughts” is a great showcase of his talents…especially because it’s a trio record, so Pullen really shines bright on this release. James Genus (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums), both phenomenal players in their own right complement Pullen’s piano antics perfectly. He’s able to change his style on the turn of a dime…one moment playing it straight ahead only to completely deconstruct whatever melody there is with his patented rapid note clusters that sound like mini tornados. Every once in a while a ghost of the melody will come through, only to be completely blown apart by his frantic, speed demon trills. Can’t say I’ve heard anything like it before. On the cut “Andre’s Ups and Downs” he starts off in this straight-ahead fashion with each piano break getting more and more wacked as the song progresses. Here is my favorite cut, “Indio Gitano” where he’s playing with middle eastern modalities but still copiously scattering his whirlwind note clusters…check it out. 

Michael Eisenberg