Sonny Sharrock: guitar, slide whistle, vocal, composer
Linda Sharrock: vocal, composer
Beb Guérin: bass
Jacques Thollot: drums
The follow up to Sharrock’s masterful debut ‘Black Woman’ is a giant leap away from his melodic and Afro-Jazzy beginnings. A positive or negative one is, and should always be left to the individual listener to decide.
For me, Monkey-Pockie Boo-Boo is one of the few truly ‘Free’ Jazz outings that doesn’t make me feel that sense of restlessness and unease that others do. On the first sidelong track ‘27th Day’ we hear the use of the bowed bass and the chiming tambourine that slowly builds into the fast patter of drums make for an eerie yet warm bed and foundation. Really nice and dark and textural, reminding me, in moments, of the Tauhid sessions, Sharrock was involved in with Pharaoh Sanders. Perhaps inspiration for this.
Lain upon this, though not gently but rather abruptly, is the quirky and unmistakable sound of the slide whistle which mimics the long and screeching vocal intonations being hollered (not always sung) by Sharrocks then wife Linda. Shrieks and screams and drawn out wails that have no words but ahhhhh!! and oooohhhhh!! which on the first track are really effective and stirring.
Its on the second side opener that we get the more extreme and aggressive version of side ones fragile progressive build. The track ‘Soon’ is a chaotic swirl of the shrieking voice mixed with Sharrock’s proto-Noise Rock guitar that is just distorted enough to help with the blend.
The drummer (Jacques Thollot) and the Bass player (Beb Guerin) do an absolutely superb job and keeping the recording sparse while still achieving such a strong supportive spine for the Sharrock’s thrashing about and in some ways, they, to me, are the unsung stars of this recording.
The closing title track is a more abstract Jazz based around the improvised movements of the drum and bass playing in an Avant Garde, Music Concrete sort of style. Popping and plucking and stabbing percussively while Linda Sharrocks more harmonious vocalising fills the spaces and Sonny tinkers away in the background with a slightly distended guitar sound. Its a welcomed reprieve from the chaotic ‘Soon’ and winds the album down nicely.
Monkey-Pockie-Boo was recorded in Paris in 1970 and released on the actuel BYG label and is these days considered to be one of the highlights of the catalog for the label.
Not an easy listen and certainly not for everyone, but i urge jazz fans to check it out as it is really accessible record as far as ‘Free Jazz’ is concerned.