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Revolver, Vol. 2

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Album Review

It was a sad day for avant-garde jazz when guitarist Sonny Sharrock died of a heart attack on May 24, 1994 at the age of 53. But thankfully, there is still an audience for his work — not a huge audience by rock, R&B, hip-hop or country standards, but a small, enthusiastic, appreciative cult following in the United States as well as Europe. One of those hardcore believers is guitarist Noël Akchoté. Recorded in 2003, Sonny, Vol. 2 finds Akchoté paying tribute to Sharrock nine years after his death. Not everything on this CD was written by Sharrock; five of Akchoté's own compositions are included. Nonetheless, Sharrock's compositions dominate Sonny, Vol. 2, and Akchoté turns his attention to nine Sharrock pieces as well as Sharrock's arrangement of the traditional French song "Bialero." While Sonny, Vol. 2 is a loving tribute, it isn't a slavish, knee-jerk affair; Akchoté is wise enough to let his own personality shine through. And while Sonny, Vol. 2 is avant-garde, it isn't avant-garde in an overly radical or extreme way. Akchoté's guitar playing is free-spirited but relatively accessible — certainly by avant-garde jazz standards — and he speaks a language that is primarily a jazz language but incorporates elements of blues, rock, folk and Latin music. And why shouldn't a jazz improviser have all of those influences? King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson and Louis Armstrong had a variety of non-jazz influences back in the '20s — none of them listened to jazz exclusively — and there is no reason why an avant-garde jazz guitarist like Akchoté cannot have a variety of non-jazz influences in the 21st century. Sonny, Vol. 2 won't go down in history as a five-star masterpiece, but it's a thoughtful, enjoyably sincere way for Akchoté to acknowledge Sharrock's legacy.

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Revolver, Vol. 2, Noël Akchoté
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