ELLIOTT SHARP : bands & solo projects : terraplane
Elliott Sharp's TERRAPLANE synthesizes the intersection of country and urban blues with Mississippi fife & drum bands, post-Mingus/Ayler jazz, the sonic innovations of Sharp's long-running ensemble CARBON and the rhythmic force of the groove, from the shuffle to contemporary dance music. Begun in 1991, Terraplane has been through many permutations with a number of guest artists including HUBERT SUMLIN, the legendary guitar innovator and sideman to Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, as well as singer/poets ERIC MINGUS and TRACIE MORRIS.
Terraplane has toured relentlessly throughout Europe with performances at major jazz festivals, at concert halls, theaters, clubs, and on television and radio, building up a large and loyal following. Each Terraplane recording reveals new facets to of the band, from the rootsy tribute of the eponymous debut in 1994, the psychedelic jungle intensity of Blues For Next, to the emotional power of 2008's Forgery. The latest CD, Sky Road Songs, will be released in Spring 2012 by MC Records in the US and Enja in Europe.
Elliott Sharp's Terraplane: Forgery By Nils Jacobson - Pop Matters - 20 February 2008
Elliott Sharp can be a real noisemaker. The guitarist has teamed with dwellers of outer cosmic space to create some extremely dissonant, in-your-face music. Call it experimental or avant-garde if you like… the man has excellent command of his instrument, but he can be hard to follow.
Up until I heard Sharp's original Terraplane (Homestead, 1994), I had no clue that he could also play the blues. With his electric power trio, the original Terraplane incarnation, he blew through the generations, sliding like Robert Johnson in his kitchen, doing the Texas blues shuffle a la Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so forth. Sharp has an encyclopedic understanding of the blues guitar, including its voice-like phrasing, its elastic intonation, its tension and release, and the all important "cry". He approaches improvisation from a jazz perspective without making the exercise the least bit academic.
The music acquires some of its greatest color through vocal contributions on seven of 11 tracks. Two returning band members, Tracie Morris and Eric Mingus, sing on one and six tracks respectively. Sharp himself also makes a low-key cameo with Fowlkes and Harding. Morris sounds warm and relaxed, sultry and legato, appropriately enough for lyrics like "music is happy, no matter what" on track three. Mingus is no crooner: he's rough, raw, and in your face. The Hendrix edge on "Dance 4 Lance" is uncanny, for example.
The rough, melancholic, soulful, rambunctious, and misbegotten qualities of the blues shine through on Forgery. The group is very much a band, with plenty of back-and-forth all along. I can't say I got much out of the vocalists, at least in part due to personal taste. The instrumental tracks are all longer and seem more sophisticated, taking the song form concept much more freely.