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07/27/12

Henry Threadgill Zooid
Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, SPP
Pi Recordings

While the previous two Zooid albums, This Brings Us To, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, provided a revealing portrait of Henry Threadgill as a composer and bandleader, one aspect of the AACM veteran seemed to be lacking: Threadgill the soloist. Especially on the second volume, his alto saxophone and flute felt active more as devices to set scenes or wrap up ideas than to lead them. Heard blindly, the album could be mistakenly attributed to guitarist Liberty Ellman.

Even though Threadgill still steps back to let the rest of the band color most of the sound, his performances sound much more present this time out. His thick-toned alto wail on “So Pleased, No Clue” stands as one of the album’s highlights. During “See the Blackbird Now,” an odd voice enters after a few minutes, and it sounds like Jose Davila vocalizing through his trombone. Eventually it becomes clear that the mystery player is actually Threadgill on bass flute, simply blowing but very much resembling a human voice and adding significantly to the soundscape.

Cellist Christopher Hoffman has joined the group, making it a sextet, and Threadgill exploits the new addition by giving him a prominent place in the most tracks. Hoffman strums, bows and occasionally scrapes at his instrument, sometimes alone and at other times in tandem with Ellman or trombonist/tuba player Davila. While some might conclude that the entire band often solos at once, the level of interplay gives the impression that they might actually be playing composed, overlapping parts. Everything has a strong sense of direction, even during moments when things sound spare and minimal. As a result, the album comes off as the most focused Zooid release yet.

Originally published in July/August 2012
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