By Brian Morton | Published January 2022
The supposed contention between improvisation and composition now seems a remote and irrelevant as the squabble between the Big-Endians and Little-Endians in Gulliver’s Travels.
Threadgill bestrides both realms colossally, probably the most important composer/improviser around at the moment. His extraordinary journey as a composer has, though, been one of dogged simplification.
Where the 1980s Sextett, and its successors Very Very Circus and Make A Move, often seemed clotted and verbose (albeit always busy with ideas), Zooid has steadily pared things down to the point where, on “Poof” itself, Threadgill teases out a saxophone line that seems always to have been in the air before us, as clear and declarative as speech, one of those instant-classic moments that makes this his most communicative and accessible album to date. Grounded as ever in root values, as “Come And Go” insists right at the beginning, it voyages out through calm and choppy water with equal authority.
The absence of an apostrophe on the credit is telling. This isn’t a horn-man and his group. Nor is it a self-denyingly anonymous “name” band. Henry Threadgill Zooid is a concept and a now long-established collective entity that visits strange territories, upsets our sense of scale and value but delivers whole new musical worlds. He’s our Gulliver and we should put out flags every time he returns to port.
Poof: Come And Go; Poof; Beneath The Bottom; Happenstance; Now And Then. (38.00)
Personnel: Henry Threadgill, alto saxophone, flute, bass flute; Liberty Ellman, guitar; José Davila, tuba, trombone; Christopher Hoffman, cello; Elliot Humberto Kavee, drums.
Ordering Info: pirecordings.bandcamp.com