Innovative multi-reed player and composer Henry Threadgill is no stranger to adventurous projects. Starting with the groundbreaking trio Air four decades ago he has not stopped expanding his creative boundaries. The ambitious multi-part suite In for a Penny, In for a Pound highlights the unusual instrumentation Threadgill has always incorporated in his groups.
Each movement is written for and coalesces around one of the members of Threadgill's current ensemble Zooid. The cinematic "Ceroepic" features drummer Elliott Humberto Kavee whose thrilling thunderous solo, an exercise in percussive lyricism and passion, bisects the piece. On the first section individual threads weave a dramatic narrative that includes Threadgill's intense and fiery alto saxophone, cellist Christopher Hoffman's serene melancholy, guitarist Liberty Ellman's delightfully dissonant chords and tubaist Jose Davilla's heady dark tones. This engaging series of exchanges climaxes into a stimulating and riotous collective performance. The second part has an expectant ambience with Kavee driving the band with his intricate series of thuds and thrums and piercing the tensely quiet atmosphere with carefully placed percussive clusters.
Davilla, in contrast, opens and closes his "Tresepic" in the spotlight while the middle showcases his co-musicians in brief yet potent monologues. Switching to trombone, Davilla starts the tune with a contemplative and melodic dialogue with the two string players and ends it with an intriguing and agile improvisation over tightly percolating rhythmic flourishes. The dynamic series of duets and three way conversations endows the center with a subtle but definite theatricality
Ellman marks the beginning of "Unoepic," the track composed for him, with classically influenced lines tinged with atonal hints. Ellman's performance demonstrates his unique style that evolves from crisp and cool to blistering hot peppered with bluesy touches and strong poetic sense. A pensive guitar interlude ushers in an intriguing chorus that includes Threadgill's breathy, muscular flute and Kavee's rumbling beats. Hoffman takes center stage with a lithe and complex extemporization that complements, with its loose easy flow, Ellman's denser sound.
On the cello dedicated "Dosepic" Hoffman goes from unaccompanied meditative balladry to gritty, acerbic bowing that rises over the band's hypnotic sonic melee. Hoffman's shimmering and inventive phrases fade in and out seamlessly constructing charming and elegant harmonies. Threadgill's sax adds a soulful touch to the music while his flute duet with Davilla, although brief, enhances the introspective mood.
This handsomely packaged 2-disc set superbly maintains a conceptual unity that reflects Threadgill's singular, artistic vision. It is simultaneously an integral part of his overall oeuvre as well as a free standing, provocative and original work. Throughout his career Threadgill has expertly maintained common themes without ever repeating himself. That alone is a sign of true ingenuity.
In For A Penny, In For A Pound (Opening); Ceroepic (For Drums And Percussion); Dosepic (For Cello); Off The Prompt Box (Exordium); Tresepic (For Trombone And Tuba); Unoepic (For Guitar).
Henry Threadgill: alto saxophone, flute, bass flute; Jose Davila: trombone, tuba; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Christopher Hoffman: violoncello; Elliot Humberto Kavee: drums, percussion.
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