Fresh off his significant contribution to Jack DeJohnette's Made In Chicago (ECM, 2015), composer/saxophonist/flautist Henry Threadgill and his most long-established group, Zooid, return for the ensemble's most creative and ambitious collection. Almost thirty years ago, Threadgill told Chicago's Pulitzer winning writer, Studs Terkel, of the influence of marching bands that he saw in that city's frequent street parades. That influencealong with that of his founding status in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musiciansare apparent in the adventurous collection In For a Penny, In For a Pound.
Joining Threadgill are original group members, guitarist Liberty Ellman, trombonist/tubaist Jose Davila and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee along with violincellist Christopher Hoffman who came on board with Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi Recordings, 2012). Bassist Stomu Takeishi, a long time Threadgill colleague and part of Zooid since 2009, does not appear on In For a Penny, In for a Pound, resetting the ensemble to its quintet formation.
Only two of the six compositions on this double-disc set clock in at under fifteen minutes. One of thosethe opening title tracksets the stage for Threadgill's uniquely abstract approach to composition. Here, he and Ellman weave through harmonic textures with a nimbleness that floats above the surface. Within "Ceroepic (for drums and percussion)," the earlier reference to parading marching bands takes on life. Threadgill has developed an approach of composing individual pieces in phases and if one were to imagine the passing of parade musicians, those here-and-gone themes and formats, it becomes palpable imagery on In For a Penny, In for a Pound.
Each of the three remaining long-form pieces is designated as a feature for a particular instrument or combination of instruments. The ubiquitous nature of changing patterns and textures makes the relatively brief featured contributions all the more engaging. The dynamic is especially notable in "Tresepic (for trombone and tuba)" where Davila bottoms-out the pitch for a time in contrast to the more pervasive lightness of the piece. While each piece includes elements of harmony and conflict, the compositions are devoid of jarring disruptions and are atmospherically ethereal.
Threadgill uses "epic" in these naming conventions not in a self-aggrandizing manner but to define the far-reaching scope of the compositions. He continues to be a composer of great complexity and feeling, creating alternating atmosphere and mood within each of his compositions, tying them together in unexpected ways. In a career that spans four decades, Threadgill is as relevant as ever and In For a Penny, In for a Pound is unique and memorable.
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.