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Concert Preview: Guitarist Elliot Sharp's 60th Birthday Celebration

Two Nights at Brooklyn's Issue Project Room


Guitarist Elliot Sharp
© Andreas Sterzing
Elliot Sharp, the endlessly creative guitarist, producer and composer, is celebrating his 60th birthday in two concerts at both of Issue Project Room’s current locations. The first concert, accompanied by a screening of a multi-media collaboration with actor Steve Buscemi and filmmaker Jo Andres, begins at 7:00 pm on March 4th at the venue’s new space at 110 Livingston in downtown Brooklyn. The celebration continues with a series of performances on March 5th at its current space at 3rd Ave and 3rd St in Brooklyn, beginning at 5:00 pm.

In a fitting nod to his prolific career and wide-ranging musical output, the residency will feature music for solo guitar, guitar and spoken word with film, string quartet, double string quartet, Orchestra Carbon with Butch Morris, solo piano, guitar ensemble, and Sharp’s improvising rock band Bootstrappers with a host of special guests.

Sharp’s compositions, which often evolve through repetition and micro-variation, mirror mathematical processes, but don’t sound dryly scientific. Sharp is interested in discovery, and similar to the way math attempts to capture the nature of the world through the study of patterns and deduction, Sharp’s music seeks musical truth by extracting the essence of a musical concept and exploring it through various perspectives. His piece “Folding,” for example, on Spectropia Suite (NEOS, 2010) features a single musical theme dealt with by a series of approaches including jazz, highly structured composition, and free improvisation.

“Folding” begins with a sustained, electronically processed cello note, growing into a terse and mysterious piece for string quartet and piano. In contrast to much of the album, there is a clear tempo and harmonic approach reminiscent of some of Bartok’s string quartets. The melodic material unspools in several directions from a common beginning, a technique heard throughout Spectropia Suite, which features mosaics of noise, string quartet pieces, dark and alluring jazz piano solos, and music for large ensemble, with growling blues riffs reminiscent of the Fletcher Henderson band or the early Duke Ellington orchestra.

The album is a wide-ranging tour through jazz, contemporary concert music, and avant-garde noise, three main facets of Sharp’s work as a musician over the last 30 years. Sharp’s 60th birthday residency at Issue Project Room will present a similar overarching view. The program will feature a parade of collaborators from New York’s downtown avant-garde music scene such as bassist Reuben Radding, pianist Anthony Coleman, and multi-reedist Oscar Noriega. It will offer a panorama of Sharp’s compositional output, from noise-based improvisations to fully notated string quartets, uncovering new territory by looking at the same question from different angles.

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