Henry Threadgill's tribute to friend, composer-conductor Lawrence D. Butch Morris, in a detailed 4-part work with an excellent set of improvisers: Henry Threadgill, Jose Davila, Jason Moran, Christopher Hoffman, David Virelles, Roman Filiu, Curtis Macdonald, and Craig Weinrib.
Threadgill, Henry Ensemble Double Up
Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
Label: Pi Recordings
Released in: USA
"Henry Threadgill's important new release Old Locks and Irregular Verbs is his heartfelt tribute to an old friend, the composer-conductor Lawrence D. Butch Morris, who passed away in 2013. He describes the work as an emotion, a thought, a feeling that I retained in my memory of Butch. Threadgill first came to know Morris a significant figure in jazz who was responsible for creating a distinctive form of conductor-led collective improvisation for large-ensemble built on a technique he called Conduction when he moved to New York in the mid-1970s from Chicago. They were subsequently members of saxophonist David Murray's Octet in the early 1980s when Morris was still best known as a cornetist. Close friends for almost four decades, they lived near each other in the East Village and were both Viet Nam War veterans, but mostly, they were fellow musical explorers who were each keen on developing his own individual creative voice. Old Locks was commissioned by and premiered at New York's Winter Jazz Fest in January 2014, where it was performed twice in front of rapt, overflowing audiences at the historical Judson Memorial Church. It features Ensemble Double Up, Threadgill's first new band to record in fifteen years, an unorthodox instrumental combination of Jason Moran and David Virelles on pianos, Curtis Macdonald and Roman Filiu on alto saxophones, Jose Davila on tuba, Christopher Hoffman on cello, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Threadgill, who is of course also well-known as a saxophonist and flutist, says that he has always wanted a group where he didn't have to play so that he could focus on composing and sculpting the music. The work opens an exciting new chapter in the ever evolving artistry of one of the greatest composers in modern music.
Threadgill has recently continued his amazing streak of accomplishments. He was named the recipient of a prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award; released the highly acclaimed In for a Penny, In for a Pound with his band Zooid, which the New York Times called brilliant; and helped the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), of which he is an early member, celebrate its 50th anniversary with a series of concerts culminating in a reunion of Muhal Richard Abrams Experimental Band at the Chicago Jazz Festival and the release of Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago, which also featured AACM mates Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell. Threadgill was also the subject of a two-day career retrospective organized by Jason Moran and held at New York's Harlem Stage where works stretching his entire career were reinterpreted by an all-star assemblage of musicians including Moran, Cassandra Wilson, Greg Osby, James Carter, Steve Lehman, Yosvanny Terry, Darius Jones, Henry Grimes, Liberty Ellman, David Virelles, and many others. Speaking to the festival's importance, Moran said Thread is my favorite composer of all time. African-American composers are generally honored after they have passed away, and the festival was my way of insuring that this would not be the case for Henry.
But even at age 72, Threadgill is pushing forward as emphatically as ever. After 15 years developing his unique interval-based system of improvisation with his band Zooid, he takes it one step further with Ensemble Double Up. Threadgill describes the new music as an extension of Zooid. The interval stuff is already written into the composition but not as tightly prescribed. It's more based on the musicians' ears so there is more room to move around. The use of two pianos vastly expands the harmonic and tonal palette, adding a much wider range of color, texture, and weight. Curtis Macdonald, who as Threadgill's music copyist for the last three years has an intimate view of his compositional process says Henry demonstrates what he's creating by playing the harmonic structures on the piano so it makes sense that he has decided to add pianists to this band. It's a big shift in his approach, as there is now a new polyphonic density with a larger-than-life sonic landscape to explore.
Parts One through Three of Old Locks (the entire composition is in a single movement and indexed for reference only) is a largely composed, meticulously arranged work that has all the hallmarks of Threadgill's recent work: complex forms, multi-layered counterpoint, and rhythmic convolution. According to Virelles, The ensemble parts are like a maze that need to be played very precisely, with interlocking phrases throughout, keeping a very specific rhythmic, harmonic and textural relationship between all the elements. In the ensemble passages, Moran and Virelles play mostly single-note counterpoint, which Moran describes as popcorn explosions while still providing the music with its harmonic framework. Macdonald and Filiu invoke Threadgill's logic on saxophones but bring their own sound; Hoffman and Davila both holdovers from Zooid provide the thrust that gives the music its most obvious connection to Threadgill's recent music, while Craig Weinrib on drums drives the labyrinthine rhythms with poise.
Part Four is altogether different. As Macdonald puts it, Henry deviates from his usual compositional system and composed an epic, deeply personal and emotive chorale in homage to Butch. It's hauntingly beautiful and mournful, and it left a profound effect on us from the very first time we heard it in rehearsal. According to Moran, "Every time we reach the end of this piece, I’m always crying because it is an emotional moment". Threadgill has always had an affinity for funeral bands, and this becomes a powerful moment when Double Up becomes a funeral band. The movement starts off a slow dirge before turning into an elegy and finally building to a crescendo and abrupt end, a moving and poignant final remembrance.
David Virelles summarizes it best: Henry is making some of the most advanced original music today. He's at the peak of his craft, yet still very curious and completely open to all possibilities when combining sounds, and always looking to expand and learn. When listening to his music, one enters a very personal sonic world, with a very colorful, recognizable personality. I feel fortunate to be able to watch closely a consummate, original composer with a very personal language who keeps expanding and refining his craft. True to form, Threadgill is already moving ahead, adding a thirde piano to the ensemble to perform his work Double Up Plays Double Up Plus. His personal quest continues, and we are all the more fortunate for it."-Pi Recordings
• Show Bio for Jason Moran
"Jason Moran (born January 21, 1975) is an American jazz pianist, composer and educator, heavily involved in multimedia art and theatrical installations. Moran recorded first with Greg Osby and debuted as a band leader with the 1999 album Soundtrack to Human Motion. Since then, he has released eight other albums-with his trio The Bandwagon, solo or leading other ensembles-and appeared in about 30 albums as a sideman. He has garnered much critical acclaim and won a number of awards for his playing and compositional skills, which combine elements of post-bop and avant-garde jazz, blues, classical music, stride piano, and hip hop, among others."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Moran_(musician))
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• Show Bio for Christopher Hoffman
"Christopher Hoffman is best known as a composer and cellist to an assortment of ensembles, composers, film-makers, songwriters, dancers, improvisers and noizers. He is also a producer, engineer and film composer. Christopher writes for his ensembles Multifariam, The Silver Cord Quintet, Magic Wells and Company of Selves. He currently performs in Henry Threadgill's Zooid (recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize), Dimples & Double-Up Ensemble, Tony Malaby's TubaCello Quartet and Jeremiah Cymerman's Pale Horse"-Christopher Hoffman Website (http://christopherhoffman.com/)
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• Show Bio for Jose Davila
"Tuba player and trombonist Jose Davila is a versatile New York-based musician whose work spans across a broad spectrum of musical genres; everything from traditional to cutting-edge jazz, to salsa and classical music. He is currently a member of Henry Threadgill's Zooid and bands led by guitarist Liberty Ellman and alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. His work with both Threadgill and Ellman extends the tuba from its traditional role as part of the rhythm section to a front-line solo voice. His playing can also be heard on the Grammy-nominated salsa recording "Un Gran Dia en el Barrio from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and "Remembranzas and "Siguendo la Tradicion from Soneros del Barrio.
Davila has also worked in the bands of Ray Charles, Andrew Hill, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Anderson, Butch Morris, Ted Nash, along with the Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the American Symphony and New York City Opera Orchestras.
A native of Puerto Rico who was raised on the East Coast, Jose received his formal musical training from the University of Connecticut and Mannes College of Music."-Pi Recordings (https://pirecordings.com/artist/Jose_Davila)
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• Show Bio for Craig Weinrib
"Craig Weinrib (1988) lives and works in New York. He graduated from Columbia University in 2010 with a degree in English Literature. Since then he has collaborated with some of the most progressive artists in the world, including Henry Threadgill, Ravi Coltrane, and David Virelles. He now works with Henry Threadgill's Double-Up, Roman Filiú's Quarteria, the Ben van Gelder Quartet/Quintet, and the Sam Harris Trio; he also appears with Jonathan Finlayson and Sicilian Defence, the Dayna Stephens Quintet, and the Matt Brewer Quintet, among others.
As a recording and performing artist, Weinrib has appeared with Henry Threadgill, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, Ambrose Akinmusire, David Virelles, Roman Filiu, Aaron Parks, Dayna Stephens, Curtis Fowlkes, Lage Lund, Ben Street, Sam Harris, Ben van Gelder, Rafiq Bhatia, Jonathan Finlayson, Matt Brewer, Larry Grenadier, and Joe Wilder, among many others."-Paiste (http://www.paiste.com/e/endorser_det.php?page=bio&endorserid=5896)
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Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PIR-CD-64
Squidco Product Code: 21787
Recorded May 22, 2015 ... Brooklyn , New York by Michael Marciano.
Roman Filiu-alto saxophone
Curtis MacDonald-alto saxophone
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1. Part One 19:15
2. Part Two 3:54
3. Part Three 16:38
4. Part Four 7:14