Monday, June 01, 2015

Henry Threadgill & Zooid - In for a Penny in for a Pound

Like a brilliant scientist, Henry Threadgill continues the ongoing exploration of his singular system of integrating composition with group improvisation. His mission is to completely deconstruct standard the jazz form and rebuild it from the ground up. This album features his Zooid group with Threadgill on alto saxophone and flute, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Jose Davila on tuba and trombone, Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums and percussion and Christopher Hoffman on cello. Threadgill challenges himself to write for these individual musicians a la Duke Ellington, but in the context on the music as a while. “In For a Penny In For a Pound” is a short opening track, which has flute and tuba developing a happy medium tempo feel, with tuba supporting delicately plucked guitar and bowed cello. Threadgill’s vivid saxophone rings true on “Ceroepic (For Drums And Percussion)” before shape shifting to mysterious flute shaded by spare cello. This is a lengthy performance and it moves in a suite like fashion and the musicians hit their cues every time. Threadgill sets up Kavee for his fine percussive feature with a very deep rhythm, building heavier as hollow sounding flute and trombone try to cut in on his action. “Dosepic (for cello)” closes disc one with Hoffman opening the proceedings with a melancholy air. He has no time to brood as the pace picks up quickly choosing his sports against the drums and trombone blurring and blending and looking for the upper hand. They pay off comes toward the end of the performance where Threadgill clears the slate with slashing lines of saxophone, emptying the floor for an intricate dance of cello and percussion. The lonely sound of unaccompanied cello is soon joined by guitar and easy-going tuba, which lifts everybody’s spirits on “Tresepic (for trombone and tuba).” Ellman’s guitar is light an expressive and leads Davila and Kavee into a great raveup section for tuba, guitar and drums. The final track “Unoepic (for guitar)” pulls all of the musical threads together, giving much deserved space to Liberty Ellman along with the entire cast of characters using a kaleidoscopic array of colors and hues that are not limited by jazz but draw on modern classical, world music and beyond. Although Henry Threadgill doesn't record as often as other musicians, this makes his statements all the more valuable. The Zooid ensemble has been one of his longest running groups and it is clear that it continues to inspire him. The compositions are unique and the amount of trust that he places in his fellow musicians to bring them to life is reciprocated by their hard work and energy. In for a Penny in for a Pound -

Send comments to Tim.