Henry Threadgill Zooid

Pi Recordings PI 92

Another glimpse unto the distinctive world of Henry Threadgill has produced another authoritative set of sound vignettes that simultaneously reflect the affiliated musicians and the composition/arrangements. Defined as sonatas or concerti by Threadgill, the five tracks depend on the proven qualities of the established Zooid chamber group: guitarist Liberty Ellman, cellist Christopher Hoffman, drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, Jose Davila’s tuba and trombone and the composer playing alto saxophone, flute and bass flute.

While primarily dedicated to creating the burbling tuba continuum that helps confirm the quintet’s singular tone, Davila’s trombone feature “Beneath the Bottom”, provides a defining instance of Threadgill’s art. With cello providing a walking bass pulse, an occasional decorative coloring from transverse blowing and sympathetic string plucks, an emphasized drum roll sets up the sequence. Tongue flutters, sliding smears and plunger extensions characterize the interlude which climaxes with savory horizontal blows from Davila.

Threadgill’s instantly recognizable blending of low-pitched brass, smeared reed vibrations, drum rumbles and string strumming is obvious from the first track. At the same time barbed sax bites and sul tasto stretches from Hoffman and dancing plucks or singular frails from Ellman not only pierce the continuum, but also creates particular motifs to ward off familiarity. As the suite sways and undulates to the conclusion there are showcases similar to Davila’s for the others. Asides include slurred guitar fingering, tuba burps, arco cello swipes and a section on “Happenstance” where flute flutters and drum paradiddles and pumps unite for theme unrolling.

Despite a title that perhaps suggests inadvertent sudden dismissal, this is high quality Threadgill, The session is also a small-scale version of what he creates for larger ensembles.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Come and Go 2. Poof 3. Beneath The Bottom 4. Happenstance 5. Now and Then

Personnel: Jose Davila (tuba and trombone); Henry Threadgill (alto saxophone, flute and bass flute); Liberty Ellman (acoustic guitar); Christopher Hoffman (cello) and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums)