Henry Threadgill: Complete Novus/Columbia Recording
A First-Ever Opportunity To Experience Two Decades of Exceptional Artistry
Henry Threadgill & Air
Available at shop.allaboutjazz.com
Talk to Henry Threadgill about the influences in his music, and he is drawn to talk about food. Or patterns of light in the sky. Or a building across the street from a rehearsal studio. Talking about an instrument's role in a composition, he is likely to mention not the rhythm of the drums, but the tuning, and a discussion about harmony becomes a question of how much white and red to add to the painting. He is not trying to be pretentious or profound. He is telling you how his mind works to create the things he hears.
Henry Threadgill was a founding member of the now legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) of Chicago, but before and since he has been a founding member of the Henry Threadgill college of making music that matters. And to Threadgill, all music mattersCharlie Parker and street marching bands and Poulenc and Balinese dance. Now, this first big collection of his music provides an opportunity to hear how those ideas collided, entwined, and rainbowed across an almost uninterrupted span of nearly 20 years.
Its eight CDs are filled with music that was carefully imagined, deeply felt, and wonderfully executed.
The period begins in 1978 with Open Air Suit, hailed for its complexity and for the uncanny way musicians Threadgill (reeds and flutes), Fred Hopkins (bass) and Steve McCall (drums) could instantly communicate through improvisation, The set moves from three albums by Air and one by Threadgill's X-75" to three on RCA with his seven-man Sextett and ends with his three albums for Columbia that are collages of styles, musical traditions and unlikely instrumentation, achieving accessibility, warmth and humor through his dark and mysterious sonic palette. Along the way it unveils for the first time ever, a completely unheard Arista/Novus X-75 session from 1979 featuring many of the biggest names associated with the avant-garde.
Many of those names hailed from Chicago, where the AACM fulfilled a unique and important role.
A Chicago Breeding Ground
Beginning in the mid-1960s, around pianist Muhal Richard Abrams grew a cadre of musicians who defied all the odds to make music they cared about. There was no club or theater to provide the economic incentive or pervert the artistic intent. Frequently, there weren't even audiences whose appreciation or disregard could steer the course. The AACM's non-profit status allowed the musicians the freedom to make music simply for its own sake and for their opportunity to grow as artists. Among the most celebrated at the time (and since) were Anthony Braxton, Abrams, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Leroy Jenkins, and certainly the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Famoudou Don Moye and Malachi Favors). Jack DeJohnette was an early member, as were Chico Freeman, Leo Smith, and Steve McCall. Threadgill had studied along with a handful of them as early as their time together at Wilson Junior College, which thrived with painters, writers, poets and free-thinkers.
In addition to composers and musicians, the organization funded music educators, and created a vital link to the community through its music outreach programs. The result was a primordial soup of experimentation, integrity, and support.
For Threadgill, whose music education had more to do with classical traditions than with jazz per se, it was a perfect breeding ground for the work he would do his entire life. The lively scene contributed to his attitude about making music; that it should always be alive, and nothing should ever be replayed. You do something you know too well, you're not going to get excited," he told an interviewer. You'll do what you know."
A Range of Tonal Colors
Threadgill's music through the two decades covered by our release is a distillation of all he has experienced, everything he has heard, and the full extent of his creative engine. Along with McCall and Hopkins, his Air cohorts, the musicians include Jarman, Douglas Ewart (reeds, flutes and piccolo); Rufus Reid (bass); Ted Daniel (trumpet, fluegelhorn); Bill Lowe (bass trombone); Frank Lacy (trombone, French horn, fluegelhorn); Dierdre Murray (cello); Amina Claudine Myers, Aisha Putli (voice). Other musicians join on a wide variety of wind instruments, stringed instruments, and percussion, running the gamut from piccolo guitars to bass flute to accordians, violins, harmonium, tubas and more.
Despite Air's exploration of traditional Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton compositions on what was the LP Air Lore," the music is truly uncategorizable. But it is also comprehensible. Compositions might weave fragments of melody, but in uncommon sequences that defy what we typically regard as song." Or instruments that usually lend support might be given the task of carrying the melody. Lines of eminently coherent music and voice exist without any obvious chord structure beneath them. And when it is time to solo, musicians work out, but work in as well, offering up their take on the tune's concept. This is no random mash-up of blowers and bashers, as some in the avant-garde can appear to listeners. It is music that is composed, cleverly organized, and emotionally affecting.
This Limited Edition collection includes our exclusive, full-sized booklet with an essay and information about each session by Hank Schteamer and many photographs from the era. Featuring music originally released by Arista, RCA and Columbia, it provides the first opportunity to experience the continuum of Threadgill's development across such a wide time range in a package only Mosaic could amass. But this is Mosaic, which means the set won't be here foreverwhen we sell out, it will never appear again.
Don't miss your chance to own one.
Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set: 5,000 copies