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Sharpness is an important determinant in visual assessment of image quality. The human visual system is able to effortlessly detect blur and evaluate sharpness of visual images, but the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Existing blur/sharpness evaluation algorithms are mostly based on edge width, local gradient, or energy reduction of global/local high frequency content. Here we understand the subject from a different perspective, where sharpness is identified as strong local phase coherence (LPC) near distinctive image features evaluated in the complex wavelet transform domain. Previous LPC computation is restricted to be applied to complex coefficients spread in three consecutive dyadic scales in the scale-space. Here we propose a flexible framework that allows for LPC computation in arbitrary fractional scales. We then develop a new sharpness assessment algorithm without referencing the original image. We use four subject-rated publicly available image databases to test the proposed algorithm, which demonstrates competitive performance when compared with state-of-the-art algorithms.