Henry Threadgill and his Zooid band follow up the 2 part "This Bring Us To" series with this exceptional album of NY jazz, abstracting the jazz idiom in persuasive and stunning ways through great writing and playing.
Threadgill Zooid, Henry
Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp
Label: Pi Recordings
Released in: USA
"Henry Threadgill is finding himself in the midst of a career renaissance. His new release, Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp is the continuation of his twelve year-long musical journey with his band Zooid, whose prior releases This Brings Us To, Volumes 1 and 2 have brought Threadgill a resurgence of critical acclaim. NPR called him "a true idiosyncratic great" and The New York Times "one of the most thrillingly elusive composers in and around the jazz idiom." Pianist Vijay Iyer, who covers one of Threadgill's songs on his new release Accelerando, calls him "A true American maverick, Threadgill continues to matter because he has elevated the act of making creative choices to a high art. His lifetime of creative exploration is characterized by a continual, systematic, and often downright radical confrontation of the fundamental building blocks of music."
Threadgill was an early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and has released over 30 records as a bandleader. At the age of 68, he continues to adhere to AACM co-founder Muhal Richard Abrams's mantra of "constant search and constant research," challenging himself to create music that defies easy explication. Pianist Jason Moran calls him "My favorite composer, hands down.... My head nods to Threadgill just as deep as it does to J Dilla."
Tomorrow Sunny showcases the continuing development of Zooid, the longest-running band in Threadgill's illustrious 40-plus year career, which is something of a surprise given his leadership of such groups as Air, Sextett, and Very Very Circus. Zooid's longevity is a testament to the commitment that each of its members has made to master its leader's cutting-edge musical system. Guitarist Liberty Ellman, who has been with the band since the beginning, says of Threadgill: "His current musical system is difficult to learn. To keep writing at the level that he is, and to continue to experiment with form, he needs to have a band that can get right to it. We have a lot of rehearsals in order to get the parts tight, which requires a commitment from the players that is uncommon these days." As Threadgill himself puts it: "It's music made through allegiance."
Named after a biological term for a cell that is capable of spontaneous movement independent of its parent organism, Threagill's compositions for Zooid assign a set of intervals to each player that serves as the starting point for improvisation. The result is a contrapuntal crazy quilt that materializes with a mysterious logic. Zooid drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee describes Threadgill's system this way: "The spaces between the notes - the intervals in time and pitch - are the elements that we work with in our improvisations. His system generates a constantly shifting negative space - a mutating kaleidoscope of sound, movement and emotion that moves around its own axis." Jason Moran calls Zooid "The vanguard of counterpoint."
Zooid features Threadgill on flutes and alto saxophone, Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar, Jose Davila on trombone and tuba, Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar, and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. Newly on board and representing the biggest change to Zooid's sound is Christopher Hoffman on cello, whose addition returns Zooid to Threadgill's original conception of the band as a sextet. The cello gives Threadgill another voice to help flesh out the harmony and to provide more color and variations in texture and dynamics. When asked about the challenges of playing in Zooid, Hoffman, who has performed with such disparate musicians as Marianne Faithful, Umphrey's McGee and Bebel Gilberto, said: "We are constantly reworking the pieces. You wouldn't be able to understand how the piece was performed from just looking at the chart as the structure is constantly being changed. It's as if the music is encoded into the written material and then Henry leads us through the labyrinth that becomes it's most current incarnation. The path is never the same twice. That said, Henry is writing not only for the band but specifically for us as players. He knows what we and our instruments are capable of and he seems highly attuned as to where he can push us to expand and develop as musicians."
The other major instrumental addition is Threadgill's bass flute, which perhaps because it approximates the register of his natural voice, sounds eerily as if he's singing through his instrument. Iyer says of Threadgill's playing: "Henry often reminds me of my all-time hero, Thelonious Monk. Like Monk, Henry has a composer's approach to improvisation; his choices are not simply about notes and rhythms, but reflect a profound and purposeful overview on the shape and feel of the music. He is also someone, like Monk, who played in the church and in other contexts where one learns how to move a crowd. You can hear that communicative power when he plays; his relationship to the beat and the visceral qualities of his sound are profound and stirring." Moran has another take: "Threadgill strikes me as the most patient of improvisers: waiting for the right moment to stab a note, or send the next one sailing over the horizon." When asked to describe this music, Henry avers: "Tomorrow Sunny... is in one sense something epic, and this is just one part of what I could best describe as species activated. ...The Revelry, Spp is not a full stop, but a kind of long chain that gets broken for practical reasons; it is not conclusive." In other words, it's just another station in Threadgill's ever evolving musical travels."-Pi Recordings
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Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: Pi 43
Squidco Product Code: 16232
Recorded on December 3rd and 4th, 2011 at Brooklyn Recording, Brookly, NY by Andy Taub.
Henry Threadgill-flute, bass flute, alto saxophone
Jose Davila-trombone, tuba
Stomu Takeishi-bass guitar
Elliot Humberto Kavee-drums
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1. A Day Off 5:51
2. Tomorrow Sunny 6:31
3. So Pleased, No Clue 3:34
4. See The Blackbird Now 9:28
5. Ambient Pressure Thereby 10:36
6. Put On Keep/Frontispiece, Spp 6:30
7. All Text Read 1:44