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Jazz - Released May 18, 2018 | Pi Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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Jazz - Released June 13, 1988 | Legacy Recordings

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Jazz - Released August 1, 1996 | Legacy Recordings

Even though Henry Threadgill is often considered "difficult to listen to," most blindfolded listeners would probably find themselves identifying any randomly selected 20-second segment of Where's Your Cup as something a little more mainstream. It wouldn't be unreasonable, for example, to hear Brandon Ross on "The Flew" and ask "Might this be a snot-raunchy John McLaughlin electric guitar solo?" with a good bit of confidence. Someone else may smile smugly and say, "I don't suppose this is from the soundtrack of an especially eerie David Lynch film, perhaps Blue Velvet, or an old episode of Twin Peaks maybe?" when Threadgill's alto sax groove kicks off "100 Year Old Game." Such is the elusiveness of Threadgill's a-bit-of-everything approach to modern jazz, a style-collage sound he achieves here with a lot of help from his band, Make a Move. A majority of the tracks here are over eight minutes long, with a lot of room for soloists to stretch out. Ross can sound like two slabs of grinding sheet metal on one song, and softly strum a flamenco-tinged acoustic guitar behind Threadgill's flute on the next. Alternating between accordion and harmonium, Tony Cedras recalls everything from a Sunday hymn to your local seventh-inning stretch organ grinder. But give the credit of assembling these varied and sundry elements into a consistent product to Threadgill. Where's My Cup has its highly organized moments as well, which possess the same spaced-out mysteriousness as all the clamoring jam-out uproar. © John Uhl /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 20, 1995 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released June 20, 1995 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released December 28, 1994 | Black Saint

Even longtime Threadgill fans may be surprised at the direction and content on his most recent session. The five tunes include three pieces where Threadgill is absent, and one ("Over The River Club") is a nine-minute-plus opus dominated by three guitars colliding, intersecting, and dueling. The title track showcases Threadgill's blues and gospel roots, with some wonderful organ by Amina Claudine Myers. Only "Crea" and "Gateway" are similar to past Threadgill works, with "Crea" featuring the unusual sound of Ted Daniel on hunting horns. Even a champion of the unorthodox like Threadgill may have some people scratching their heads after they hear this, but it's a signal that he'll never settle for doing what's expected. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 7, 2012 | Pi Recordings

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Jazz - Released May 11, 2015 | Pi Recordings

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Jazz - Released June 16, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

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Jazz - Released November 5, 2001 | Pi Recordings

Henry Threadgill has made a career out of creating separate identities for the ensembles he creates to perform his music. From his early band, Air, to the legendary sextet, to Very Very Circus, Make a Move (who issued an album simultaneously on this same label), and Zoo-Id. Zoo-Id is, in a sense, a mirror image of Very Very Circus; the tunes are written for extended purposes: elongated harmonics, striking color shifts, and strident multi-dimensional textures. Threadgill plays alto and flute, Liberty Ellman plays acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim plays oud, and there's Jose Davila on tuba, Dana Leong on cello, and Dafnis Prieto on drums. This is a kind of chamber jazz that has its roots in the seam of Eastern and Western music. Middle-Eastern folk songs, jazz, and even Western classical music all intertwine here and are fleeced with European folk music from both sides of the continent. The opener, "Tickled Pink," makes listeners keenly aware of what Threadgill's MO is, with its crisscrossing violin and tuba lines over the angular guitar chords and Threadgill's own loping flute lines. On "Dark Block," the alto and the oud are at seemingly cross-purposes, or at least rhythm. The modal blues "Around My Goose" has elements of flamenco and Uzbekistani folk music woven through Threadgill's distinctive punchy phrasing. Finally, "Do the Needful" rings with an old-style New Orleans flair, even as it reinvents the Western harmonic line, clogging it first with a host of shifting sonorities and then with three simultaneous melody lines in differing harmonic veins. This is a fun, deft, and smart record. Threadgill is more on his game as a composer and as a bandleader than at any point in his career. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 6, 2017 | Pi Recordings

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Jazz - Released October 6, 2009 | Pi Recordings

Henry Threadgill has, in the framework of abstract music, been a stalwart, spontaneous composer whose personal sound is near impossible to identify, or certainly codify. A listener who enjoys very challenged music would have difficulty in discerning what is made up or written out. The elusive nature of Threadgill's kind of progressive jazz has to confound even those most oriented to his quirky pieces. Where the quintet Zooid lands in this quirky quandary of pegging a signature sound is subject to guesswork, but it definitely has its own brand of concentrated cohesion. Between Threadgill's scattershot flute and alto sax, the sleek tuba or trombone work of Jose Davila, and Liberty Ellman's thorny electric guitar, sparks are always flying about in a collective discourse that is completely unpredictable. Electric bass guitarist Stomu Takieshi and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee are practically secondary in this mix of give-and-take improvisation that needs little rhythmic support or urgency. What seems telepathic or in zig-zag patterns is bursting with colors to the point where those lines are blurred with the virtuosity of these players. Then again, most of the tracks do have a funky underpinning anchored by Takieshi and Kavee that lends a more contemporary, updated feel to the proceedings. Threadgill has always used contradictions as a foundation for his music, and that is something his fans should expect at this juncture. His flute playing is exceptional as featured on the first half of this session, traipsing along in cat-like fashion for the intriguing film noir-shaded "White Wednesday Off the Wall," or the funkier, heavy water experiment "To Undertake My Corners Open." Ellman and Davila take hefty respective solos on these tracks, alleviating Threadgill of any heavy leadership burden, but "Chairmaster" is more a collective jam, as Davila's chunky tuba gets the ball rolling for Ellman's spatial guitar, the in-late flute, and a diffuse melody that cannot be pinned down. With the other three selections featuring Threadgill's atmospheric and wooden alto, you hear more gothic tones, still funky but intangible within Ellman's color palette during "After Some Time." A driving free bop pattern anchors "Sap" at the outset, but bursts in all directions at once like fireworks, while "Mirror Mirror the Verb" staggers short phrases like bursts of dimmed light. A most unique combination of musicians that collectively sounds like no other modern jazz ensemble, Threadgill's Zooid must be heard to be appreciated, especially live, as the studio does not do the band justice. This CD is identified as a first volume, and though clocking in at a brief total time of under 40 minutes, it must mean there's more in store. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 10, 2010 | Pi Recordings

There are two main reasons that Henry Threadgill's second Zooid project, This Brings Us To, Vol. II sounds like a rather mercurial mirror image of its 2009 predecessor. The first is that both albums were recorded during the same sessions in 2008. The second is the aesthetic involved in its approach to composition versus improvisation. With this band -- guitarist Liberty Ellman, Jose Davila on trombone and tuba, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee -- Threadgill's structural emphasis relies heavily on intervallic investigation rather than harmonic cartography. Unlike his works with the Very Very Orchestra, these five tunes, like those on Vol. I, are decidedly not dynamic; they are developmental in increments. Basic melodies are hinted at simultaneously by all players in the improvisations around them. From the description, this may read like chaos. Not so. The restraint that Threadgill impresses upon his collaborators is akin to that used on his Novus recordings, or more maximal examples which he employed during his Air years. His rhythm section has a free rein, though they restrain their force; Kavee is a syncopation detective, he seeks it out everywhere at once as Takeishi's bass pulls back against the crackling breaks and skittering beats to formulate something approaching a groove. Ellman's guitar touches on key changes and dynamic shifts, where Davila on either -- or sometimes both -- of his instruments lays down a frame for Threadgill to enter on with his alto or flute. Most tunes follow this formula, with the band creating a fluid gel that Threadgill steps into, most notably on "Lying Eyes" and "Extremely Sweet William," though it diverges on the spacious "Polymorph," where all expectations are erased in. With all of the space and non-directness in this approach to ensemble playing, there isn't anything remotely academic about this recording, or its predecessor. Given how foreign its initial construction may seem, it can take a listen or two to fully enter it as a participant, but this music is so lyrical, so full of life, humor, and startling originality, that it's impossible not to get sucked in. The music Zooid creates has the subtlety and lyricism of fine poetry. Given Threadgill's reputation as a musical polymath, this shouldn't be a surprise, because, as evidenced here, in his own way he is reinventing jazz from the inside out. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 18, 2018 | Pi Recordings

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Jazz - Released July 16, 2021 | Pi Recordings

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Jazz - Released July 5, 2017 | Pi Recordings

Make a Move is Henry Threadgill's electric band in one sense of the word. Though guitarist Brandon Ross and bassist Stomu Takeishi play acoustic instruments as well, their primary focus in Make a Move is to make their stringed instruments scream unto the heavens. Filling out the group is Threadgill on alto and flute, Bryan Carrott on vibes and marimba, and the only holdover from Zoo-Id, Dafnis Prieto, on drums. This set is issued simultaneously with Zoo-Id's Up Popped Two Lips, also on Pi. This set opens abstractly enough with "Platinum Inside Straight," a meditation on extended mode and interval, with Brandon Ross playing a gorgeous acoustic line on top of Carrott's marimba and then delicately chorded vibes. Takeishi's bass holds the thing to the ground by playing a small series of tone frames over and over, and Threadgill grabs one short flute solo. Things heat up and get funky on "Don't Turn Around," which is driven by the funk in the rhythm section's approach. There's a knotty arpeggio here and there by Ross and Carrott before Threadgill turns "Harlem Nocturne" inside out with his alto. This is film noir soundtrack music George Clinton-style. There is also the trace of the Ornette Coleman-styled Texas blues slithering in and out of Threadgill's playing. The vibes' solo is so off-kilter, it barely holds the time signature and would move off into inner space if it weren't for the chunky, groove-laden bassline of Takeishi. The hippest track on the set, though, is "Shake It Off," with the staggered bass and guitar solos that constitute the track's opening melodic statement. The drive Prieto puts in to keep the pair in track is considerable, and Takeishi just takes off against the snares, followed closely by the arpeggios and razored riffs of Ross. But before it moves off into fusion land, Threadgill and Carrott bring it back, with flute and marimbas whirling around each other and staggering the atonality of the strings with wondrously loopy and flighty playing grounded in minor-seventh modalities and open-toned sonorities, which keep the bassist a part of the rhythm section and Ross in painterly position. This is deft footwork on the part of Threadgill as a leader, who lets his musicians shine and keeps them focused on the task at hand. Everybody's Mouth's a Book is as solid top to bottom as its companion release on Pi. © Thom Jurek /TiVo