Black planet

Pub date June 28, 2007
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Heralded as one of the most important reissues of this year, the two-disc Music of Idris Ackamoor on the Em label shines a light on Ackamoor’s long-neglected Bay Area contributions to free jazz. But Water’s appreciation of local improvisation predates Em’s work: in 2003, the imprint put out CD versions of Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening, a pair of standout 1969 recordings by San Jose’s Gale and his Noble Gale musicians and singers. Both might be described as sprawling if their vast reach weren’t so dramatically composed. On Ghetto Music, which includes a track called "Fulton Street," 16 people come together to form one ebbing, flowing, raging, soul-stirring musical entity.

As Gale whipped up gale-force storms on the West Coast, on the East Coast the lovably hulking Sonny Sharrock performed an even more extraordinary feat in giving birth to Black Woman, a recording so radically fierce that the world still hasn’t caught up with it — though Water has done its part by reissuing it. The duets between Sharrock’s guitar and his wife Linda’s voice have to be heard to be believed. She’s as octave-hopping wild as Yoko Ono with melodicism and Yma Sumac without the kitsch, and he’s the Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson whom no one knows about, patenting a skronk that’s never been bettered. Sharrock once lived across the street from Sun Ra, yet he and his wife discovered their own feminist black planet. The US space program reached the moon in 1969, but in my mind, the Sharrocks’ trip was — and is — greater. (Johnny Ray Huston)