Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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THREADGILL, Henry

(b 15 February1944, Chicago IL) Reeds, composer, and a leader who never stops experimenting with combinations of sounds. He had formal studies, played with gospel and blues groups, joined Richard Abrams's Experimental band and became a founder member of AACM and the trio Air. His first album as a leader was X-75 '79 on Arista-Novus, an octet with three reeds including Douglas Ewart and Joseph Jarman and several basses, plus vocals by Amina Claudine Myers; the Sextett was six pieces plus Threadgill for When Was That?, Just The Facts And Pass The Bucket and Subject To Change '82-4 on About Time. Back on Novus, now an RCA imprint, You Know The Number '86 had Deidre Murray on cello, Frank Lacy on trombone, Rasul Sadik on trumpet, Fred Hopkins on bass, Pheeroan akLaff and Reggie Nicholson on drums. Hopkins and akLaff were the rest of the New Air trio; several played in Oliver Lake's combo as well. This was followed by Easily Slip Into Another World and Rag, Bush And All on Novus; meanwhile his 'Run Silent, Run Deep, Run Loud, Run High' for orchestra and voices was commissioned and performed by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Spirit Of Nuff-Nuff '90 on Black Saint introduced the Very Very Circus, a septet with trombone, two guitars, two tubas and drums; the layered and textured effect of his compositions was dense but never muddy. He carried on with Live At Koncepts '91 on Taylor Made, Too Much Sugar For A Dime c.'92 on Axiom (an Island subsidiary, produced by Bill Laswell) and Song Out Of My Trees '93 on Black Saint (a total of twelve pieces included a quartet for piano and four guitars, another for alto, accordion, harpsichord and two cellos); then a major label contract: Carry The Day '94 on Columbia saw the Circus become a nonet plus guests, produced by Laswell; Makin' A Move '95 presented various experimental groups including the Circus. Where's Your Cup? '97 by Henry Threadgill and Make a Move was a quintet with Tony Cedras on accordion and harmonium, Brandon Ross on guitars, Stomu Takeishi on five-string fretless bass, J. T. Lewis on drums. Threadgill's contemporary music uses classical harmonies, gospel voicings and the earliest jazz principle, of collective improvisation; his group is tightly drilled yet at ease, and he plays no more solos than anyone else. He brings the AACM's virtue of using the history of the music as a reference. His music should have appealed not only to the jazz world but to world music fans and contemporary classical markets.

He put together a new band, Zooid, in 2007; in 2009 in New York it included Jose Davila on tuba, Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim on oud, Dana Leong on cello and Elliot Kavee on drums. There werr several more albums on the Pi label; Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up, an octet with two pianists and two alto saxes, released Old Locks And Irregular Verbs in 2016, and Threadgill won a Pulitzer Prize for Music that year.