Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages: One for the Ages Comes Back

Photo copyright 1992 Jack Vartoogian/ Front Row Photos
Photo copyright 1992 Jack Vartoogian/ Front Row Photos

The news of a reissue of Sonny Sharrock‘s 1991 album “Ask the Ages” made me feel nostalgic. I can only wonder how Sharrock’s searing sound will seem in a new “enhanced and re-mastered from the original,” as promised from M.O.D. Technologies, the label run by Bill Laswell and Giacomo Bruzzo. The press release tells me that “M.O.D. resumes and continues the legacy of Axiom, the timeless imprint established in 1989 by Bill Laswell with Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records,” which first released this album, and that Laswell, who produced it, “first heard Sharrock at fourteen.”
I was much older than 14 in 1998, but much younger than I am now. I was editor-in-chief of Jazziz magazine then. For the September issue, in celebration of the magazine’s 15th anniversary, I planned all sorts of special coverage. There were competing essays depicting the period from 1983-1998 as either a jazz Dark Age or a Renaissance. For the review section, I had critics select albums released in 1983 or later and destined to be memorable well into the future.
Among the albums I chose was “Ask the Ages.” Below is what I wrote. I like to think I’d express it better today—and maybe I will, upon listening to this reissue. (Not sure I still stand by my criticism of Laswell’s mix. Still, I stand by my enthusiasm. Everyone should own this album. Save for a few ripples here and there—the power trio Harriet Tubman for instance—I haven’t heard much that followed the path Sharrock was blazing.
Anyway, here’s that old review (sadly, the magazine is not online): Continue reading “Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages: One for the Ages Comes Back”