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Artist Profiles

Henry Threadgill Makes A Move

By Published: February 14, 2005
But while he's not excited about much that's happening in the world he hesitantly called "jazz", he doesn't put the blame squarely on the players. "What we have here is a failure on the part of scholars, critics and musicians to say anything about how we've been staying in this loop," he said. "These kids come out of school and all of them are doing the same thing. So-called 'jazz' is going to stay behind for a long time until they get rid of jazz programs. It's like a cancer. What they need is a music program. You've got to know music - all music."

The state of the art has left Threadgill ambivalent about being associated with the music he grew up on and confused about the parallels that are often drawn to explain his work.

"That term [jazz] has been abused and disrespected," he said. "Who wants to be a part of that? You might as well call me the 'n-word'. People always refer to [my music as] marches and dirges. I don't know where this stuff comes from. My influences are too broad to even name."

He acknowledged the early influences of Chicago horn players Eddie Harris, John Gilmore, Clifford Jordan and Gene Ammons. "But that influence is not an influence of imitation," he said. "I've always understood to not do what someone else has done. A good influence is what takes you into yourself, not into them."

And while holding such greats as Coltrane, Miles and Sun Ra in esteem, he said he draws inspiration from much more than the history of jazz. "Humanity is a very large part of the influence of what I do," Threadgill said. "Not saxophone players, not records, humanity. I'm affected by the temperature of humanity. I don't expect to get a big plaque or award for that because you don't get that. But I know I'm in the number of artists who are serious about what they do."

Recommended Listening:

Air- Air Lore (Bluebird/RCA, 1979)

Henry Threadgill - Just the Facts and Pass The Bucket (Black Saint, 1983)

Henry Threadgill - When Was That? (About Time, 1982)

Henry Threadgill - Rag, Bush and All (Novus, 1988)

Henry Threadgill - Up Popped the Two Lips (Pi, 2001)

Henry Threadgill - Everybody's Mouth's A Book (Pi, 2001)

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