Jazz Icon Henry Threadgill Returns With "This Brings Us To, Vol. 1"

Henry Threadgill Zooid, This Brings Us To, Vol. 1 (Pi)

Someone needs to introduce Henry Threadgill to the CD-R. After recording prolifically throughout the late '70s, '80s, and '90s, the Chicago-based reedsman/composer went unheard from for most the '00s. Now Threadgill's back with his first studio recording in eight years, taking up the reins of his Zooid band, picking up right where he left off with his ineffable hivemind jazz, and sounding like he hasn't lost even a half step.

For years now, Threadgill has been honing an approach similar in result, if not necessarily theoretical underpinning, to Ornette Coleman's harmolodics. That is, Threadgill's music sounds sort of like everyone's soloing at once, but the brief motifs of his compositions and the preternatural sync of the Zooid line-up help create a rippling tapestry rather than a train wreck. Drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee is constantly pushing and pulling the beat while driving it forward, as bassist Stomu Takeishi and tubist/trombonist Jose Davila (both long-standing Zooid members) wrestle with the bass clef like a batch of taffy. While there are identifiable solos here, usually taken by Threadgill on flute (as on the intricate "To Undertake My Corners Open") or alto sax (nicely grainy and crying holy on "Sap") and guitarist Liberty Ellman, they never rise too far above the roiling, strangely swinging whole. Speaking of strangely swinging, Ellman earns MVP status here with his forceful single-string runs and sly hummingbird chords, making his way through the disc lint-deep in his own personal pocket.

A pair of shorter, more contemplative pieces bookend a quartet of expansive cuts, all so rich in interwoven harmony, melody, and idiosyncratic pulse that, even at a mere 40 minutes or so, it almost makes Threadgill's long absence seem worth it. Vol. 2 now, please.