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Henry Threadgill and Make a Move: Where’s Your Cup?

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Henry Threadgill’s timing in creating a new sound with a new working band has always been impeccable. The composer-saxophonist’s formation of Make A Move is no exception. Comprised of veteran Very, Very Circus guitarist Brandon Ross, accordionist Tony Cedras (who performed on Carry The Day and Song Out Of My Trees), five-string electric bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer J.T. Lewis, Make A Move brings a distinctive timbral palette and a fresh rhythmic slant to each of Threadgill’s many compositional facets. As a result, Where’s Your Cup? commences an exciting new chapter in Threadgill’s intriguing work.

The album’s opener,”100 Year Old Game,” quickly establishes how Make A Move deftly handles Threadgill’s melting-pot method of incorporating world music. Cedras’ opening unaccompanied solo evokes the Sheshwe bands of South Africa’s gold-mining regions. Yet, Threadgill and the others enter with a subtle tango nuevo-tinged theme. Threadgill’s initially sinewy alto solo is brought to a boil, his phrasing becoming more exclamatory, and his tone thickening to a bray. Cedras reenters with a solo that slips into a frisky two-beat rhythm that is as central to Cajun music as it is to South African music. By the end of the piece, all sense of place is blurred.

At their best, Threadgill’s balladic compositions are exquisite outpourings of ambivalence; subsequently, the title piece and “Feels Like It” comprise another stringent litmus test that the quintet passes impressively. Both compositions are propelled by not quite edgy, harmonically unresolved phrases and sensual instrumentation. On both compositions, Threadgill’s lithe flute meshes with Cedras’ heaves and sighs, while Ross and Takeishi’s offsetting lines act like acid applied with an eye-dropper, pitting the lush surface with a corrosive emotional counterpoint.

The twin guitars and tubas of Very, Very Circus were occasionally reduced to a single slab of sound on their less expertly engineered recordings; Make A Move benefits from crisp, well-defined engineering on Where’s Your Cup?, especially on the flat-out scorchers. Not only is the subtlety of Ross and Takeishi’s work preserved, but, conversely, the power of Threadgill’s alto is more cogently conveyed. On pieces like the riveting “And This,” Threadgill’s music loses none of its industrial gauge, while the agile swing of “Laughing Club” is faithfully rendered.

Another notable aspect of Where’s Your Cup? is its length, which is about 15 to 20 minutes longer than most Threadgill discs. Still, in his inimitable fashion, Threadgill leaves you wanting more.