Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Henry Threadgill Zooid - Poof (Pi Recordings, 2021)

Composer, alto saxophonist and flute player Henry Threadgill leads his group Zooid on this recording with Liberty Ellman on guitar, Christopher Hoffman on cello, Jose Davila on tuba, and Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums. These musicians are the perfect foils for Threadgill, interpreting his compositions with wit and panache, creating colorful and vivid sounds in the process. The opening track, "Come and Go," uses tuba and violin bouncing and scratching amid skittish drums and saxophone and pointistic guitar. The leader's saxophone becomes more biting and present, cutting through the other instruments, leading to tapping percussion, taut sawing cello and tuba underpinning everything, while the  low-key guitar and violin get time to shine. "Poof" features closely intertwined and arranged instruments, leading to yearning saxophone, wistfully played. Spare unaccompanied guitar fills, then Threadgill returns with heartbreaking saxophone solo that is huge sounding and deeply lonely. Long yearning peals of saxophone with tuba along side and dark turns of cello are the centerpiece of this track, Hoffman's cello playing is haunting in its melancholy, soon joined by dark toned saxophone in a rich and emotional performance. Davila is simply extraordinary throughout "Beneath the Bottom," juggling tuba and trombone with great skill and interfacing with Kavee's drums, using the available space to work out sounds, unaccompanied tuba/trombone, with barely perceptible drumming. The remainder of the band gradually fills in with Threadgill on flute, softly shading the edges. The tune swings to an alternate section, with the full band in a medium tempo setting, as cello and drums framing the trombone for further exploration. "Happenstance" uses unusual sounds, with Threadgill on flute met by acoustic guitar and other noises, becoming much more intricate, as long tones of cello and flute give the music a near classical sensibility. Tuba adds bottom end the the performance, filling out the sound, with gentle cymbal play added for texture. Drums play alone in space moving around the sound stage becoming more agitated as time moves forward, then everyone returns to the intricate conception that had been envisioned previously to conclude this performance. The concluding track, "Now and Then" creates fine tuba, guitar and drum interplay, subtle and well shaded, and the cello joins in engaging his fellow string instrument, developing deep intricate group improvisation with Threadgill laying out for the most part, before re-entering with strong toned alto saxophone that concludes the performance. The Zooid ensemble has been one of his longest running of Henry Threadgill's groups and they continue to inspire him in terms of composition and improvisation. His compositions are unique and the amount of trust that he places in his band members to bring them to life is reciprocated by their own talent and energy. Poof -

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