Monday, May 21, 2018

Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg - Dirt... And More Dirt (Pi Recordings, 2018)

Saxophonist, flutist and composer was inspired to form a new group and write new music by the conceptual art installation “The New York Earth Room” and the sculptures of Stephen De Staebler. These works must have been very thought provoking, as Threadgill formed this large ensemble with some of the core musicians he has worked with in the past, while also injecting new blood to create two suites that are steeped in nuance, using a wide range of color, light and shadow to excellent effect. "Dirt - Part III" is a wonderful example of this as the leaders lithe and gliding saxophone weaves around tuba, percussion and piano creating a very interesting musical concept that is able to build into a complex improvised section. This shifts to an interesting brass interlude, supported by percussive piano and drums, framed by wheezy harmonium. Cutting saxophone emerges to push the group further along with a strong solo section over complex background interaction. The large ensemble has instruments that weave in as out as the arrangement and conduction desires as evidenced on "Dirt - Part IV" where the palate of the music waxes and wanes, leading to short solo sections for differently tuned trumpets, moving over the thick tuba and drums. While the music can seem unconventional, it unfolds logically and rationally, and each of the compositions is a strong unit within the greater whole. "Dirt - Part VI" ends the first suite in a very exciting fashion with a complex arrangement of instruments opening the piece, before the colors branch out in a kaleidoscopic fashions with horns interacting with reeds playing with brass who are frolicking with drums, creating a multi-layered and complex setting that drops off unexpectedly for a section of spare flute playing. This moves seamlessly into "More Dirt - Part I" where spacious drumming sets the stage for the return of the other instruments which build a lightly toned theme with flute and other reeds taking charge. The tuba, central to so much of Threadgill's work, solos in a clean and pure fashion adding the bottom, but also fresh ideas to the proceedings. The collective improvisation is fast and intricate as one of the pianists stretches out over insistent percussion and melded reeds, and then takes a brief unaccompanied solo. This is the longest track on the album and it unfolds episodically as cells of musicians are called upon to improvise and interact within the performance itself. "More Dirt - Part III" is a short and light feature for flute and other reeds, taking flight and fluttering rapidly like a group of hummingbirds in search of nectar. The interplay is complex and intricate, but always accessible to the listener. This was an excellent album, with a very talented ensemble led by one of the most iconoclastic performer on the modern jazz scene. Henry Threadgill's work is unique, inspiring and completely unpredictable. Dirt... And More Dirt -

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