Linda Sharrock is a vocal artist who uses her voice like no other I've ever heard. Rich and sonorous, then lowdown and growly, and then as sharp as a piece of broken glass, it can shine and cut and cause you to perk up and pay attention. Not that she sings any nuanced poetic screed. Rather, the message is gut-level and direct, with a deep imposing timbre.
And the band! Everybody goes for it. Often it is beautiful mayhem, but there are respites of calm reflection and soothing moody moments. But the freedom of the playing is compelling. It includes, on reeds and saxolin, Mario Rechtern; on trumpet and flugelhorn, Itaru Oki; on piano Eric Zinman; double-bass, Yotram Rosilio; on drums Makoto Sato. There is an infectious joy in the freedom of the music, the liberating barbaric yawp that Walt Whitman prescribed.
The two CDs contain the same piece/project titled "No is No" recorded in Paris, France, one in a studio the day after a concert that was also recorded. But these are not identical pieces in any but the most superficial ways — i.e. same theme, instrumentation and players. The sessions are quite different otherwise, the live version being a little more raw.
The human voice can often be constrained in jazz, with lyrical content or instrumental technique often being the paradigm or the reference point. Here Ms. Sharrock side-steps any molds and taps into the inherent emotional power of this most human of all instruments, harnessing, or rather unleashing, the beast that the voice can be, expressing in micro-tonal splendor a wide range of feeling, from the gutturals of pain and pleasure to the transcendent hum of blissful and soulful experience. Blessed with a wide-open tone and vibrant timbre, Ms. Sharrock will not leave any listener unmoved, I suspect, given the unabashed involvement in the musical adventures captured here.
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