The jazz avant-garde has produced dozens of notable improvisers (not surprisingly, since improvisation is arguably the music’s defining element) but relatively few great composers.
Henry Threadgill is a member of that exclusive club. With his fellow Chicagoans Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams, he’s one of the most original jazz composers of his generation. Threadgill’s art transcends stylistic boundaries. He embraces the world of music in its entirety, from ragtime to circus marches to classical to bop, free jazz, and beyond. Such might sound merely eclectic in the telling, but in truth, Threadgill always sounds like Threadgill. A given project might exploit a particular genre or odd instrumentation, but whatever the slant, it always bears its composer’s inimitable personality. Threadgill is also an alto saxophonist of distinction; his dry, heavily articulated manner is a precursor to that of a younger Chicagoan, the alto saxophonist Steve Coleman (no coincidence, one would suspect). Threadgill took up music as a child, first playing percussion in marching bands, then learning baritone sax and clarinet. He was involved with the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) from its beginnings in the early ’60s, collaborating with fellow members Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell and playing in Muhal Richard Abrams’ legendary Experimental Band. From 1965-1967 he toured with the gospel singer Jo Jo Morris. He then served in the military for a time, performing with an army rock band. After his discharge, he returned to Chicago, where he played in a blues band and resumed his association with Abrams and the AACM. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music at the American Conservatory of Music; he also studied at Governor’s State University. In 1971 he formed Reflection with drummer Steve McCall and bassist Fred Hopkins. The trio would re-form four years later as Air and would go on to record frequently to great acclaim. It’s 1979 album Air Lore featured contemporary takes on such early jazz tunes as “King Porter Stomp” and “Buddy Bolden’s Blues,” prefiguring the wave of nostalgia which was to dominate jazz in the following decade. Threadgill moved to New York in the mid-’70s, where he began forming and composing for a number of ensembles. Threadgill began showing a love for unusual instrumentation; for instance, his Sextett (actually a septet), used a cellist, and his Very Very Circus included two tubas. In the mid-’90s he landed a (short-lived) recording contract with Columbia, which produced a couple of excellent albums. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s Threadgill’s music became increasingly polished and sophisticated. A restless soul, he never stood still, creating for a variety of top-notch ensembles, every one different. A pair of 2001 releases illustrates this particularly well. On Up Popped the Two Lips (Pi Recordings), his Zooid ensemble combines Threadgill’s alto and flute with acoustic guitar, oud, tuba, cello, and drums — an un-jazz-like instrumentation that nevertheless grooves and swings with great agility. Everybodys Mouth’s a Book features his Make a Move band, which consists of the leader’s horns, with vibes and marimba, electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass, and drums — a more traditional setup in a way, but no less original in concept.
by Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide
Recent Press for Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill’s recently released
has received a myriad of positive reviews! Old Locks and Irregular Verbs
“It’s all too much to think about, except for the fact that it’s not. Threadgill’s masterful blend of the independent and interdependent is alive and well in
Old Locks and Irregular Verbs.”- All About Jazz
Full review at
All About Jazz
“Henry Threadgill may be in his early 70s, but he continues to make music that sounds like no one else. Even when he branches out and doesn’t quite sound like himself, he remains inimitable to a startling degree.”-
Full review at
“Recent Pulitzer winner Henry Threadgill only makes important records. In the jazz avant-garde, he is both revered elder statesman and active agent provocateur.”-
Full review at
JazzTimes Praise for Henry Threadgill’s Pulitzer Win
“A composer and bandleader of intense, unyielding originality, nobody’s idea of a compromise”-New York Times
“A sonic tapestry that seems the very expression of modern American life”-Pulitzer Prize Jury
“The Pulitzer Prize has made a major statement, in recognizing my work and others’, that they have a bigger picture of creativity. Because that’s what we need as a country and as an artistic community, is to have everything recognized.”-Henry Threadgill (via NPR)
In for a Penny In For A Pound’s] triumph suggests the music Pulitzers are headed in the right direction”-Chicago Tribune
Pi Recordings is pleased to announce that we have shared copies of
In For A Penny in For A Pound with Commander in Chief President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, and the Disabled Veterans Association. Henry Threadgill wins Pulitzer Prize!
by In for a Penny, In for a Pound was named the winner of the Henry Threadgill for “distinguished musical composition by an American.” In awarding the prize, the Pulitzer committee call the release “a highly original work in which notated music and improvisation mesh in a sonic tapestry that seems the very expression of modern American life.” We could not be more ecstatic for Henry and are honored to have been able to help document his work these last 15 years. Pulitzer Prize AACM Celebrates 50 Years
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is one of the most innovative and respected organizations in jazz, providing decades of support for creative music and musicians. This year the organization turns 50, and there is still a lot of music to look forward to.
Classicalite recently published an article on the beginnings of the organization. Read the full story
To help celebrate the anniversary, the Robert D Bielecki Foundation has announced a matching grant of up to $25,000 to help present a series of concerts this fall in New York City, as well as to assist in strengthening the infrastructure and outreach of the organization. For more information, and to make a donation, please visit the
. Robert D Bielecki Foundation
Pi recordings is proud to have worked with many AACM artists, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Leroy Jenkins, Fred Anderson, Anthony Braxton, and George Lewis.
Henry Threadgill and Tyshawn Sorey Featured in This Month’s Issue of Downbeat
The March Issue of
Downbeat features a great review of Henry Threadgill Zooid’s December performance at Roulette, as well as a blindfold test performed by Tyshawn Sorey.
Continue supporting 81 years of jazz writing and pick up this month’s issue today!
Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp 5 Stars
Henry Threadgill’s Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp has received a rare 5 star review in the September 2012 DownBeat. John Corbett’s HotBox review describes the performance as, “With this incarnation of Zooid, Threadgill has yet again found the ideal vehicle for his evolving ideas.”
Henry Threadgill’s Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp
Henry Threadgill’s latest recording is reviewed in the
New York Times. Nate Chinen describes “Tomorrow Sunny / the Revelry, Spp” as “…youll find striking individual contributions on this album the chiming angularity of Mr. Ellmans guitar on Tomorrow Sunny, the halting whinnies of Mr. Threadgills alto saxophone on A Day Off… the album… exerts its own momentum, so that the most dazzling track, Ambient Pressure Thereby, arrives with climactic intensity, as an onrushing confrontation.” DownBeat’s Critics Poll
DownBeat’s Critics Poll Winners have been released and there is much to celebrate. We are very pleased to congratulate Rudresh Mahanthappa for being voted top Alto Saxophonist. Apex is in the top 5 Jazz Albums of the Year at #4. Other categories where Pi Recordings’ artists were recognized by the critics:
Jazz Artist -
Vijay Iyer, Henry Threadgill & Rudresh Mahanthappa Piano -
Vijay Iyer Rising Star Jazz Artist -
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Vijay Iyer Composer -
Henry Threadgill & Vijay Iyer Rising Star Piano -
Vijay Iyer Alto Saxophone -
Henry Threadgill , Bunky Green & Steve Coleman Jazz Group -
Henry Threadgill Zooid Flute -
Henry Threadgill Guitar -
Marc Ribot Rising Star Guitar -
Liberty Ellman Rising Star Composer -
Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman & Rudresh Mahanthappa Record Label -
We are excited to tell you about a new publication that we think you will enjoy.
is a quarterly journal of the arts. The writers who contribute have chosen an in-depth approach in opposition to the glib, superficial treatment commonly afforded popular culture in mainstream, advertising-dependent magazines. Contributing writers include: Matt Cibula, Philip Freeman, Kurt Gottschalk, Stephen Haynes, and Phil Nugent. We would like to thank Burning Ambulance Burning Ambulance for featuring an insightfully written 8000 word piece on Henry Threadgill and his music in its premier issue. Please take a moment to learn more about Burning Ambulance and enjoy.
We would like to thank the 99 journalists who participated in the
Fourth Annual Village Voice Jazz Poll and who helped to make Henry Threadgill’s This Brings Us To, volume 1 the #2 recording of 2009 and Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation and Flow #5.
We would also like to thank the
Wall Street Journal and Larry Blumenfeld for naming Henry’s recording the #1 release of 2009.
Happy New Year to all from Pi Recordings.
Special thanks to Jazz Times and the New York Times for their support:
New York Times Year End Best of List
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow #1
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To Vol.1, #3
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow #5
Jazz Times Top 50 Releases of 2009
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To Vol.1, # 4
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow #11
PopMatters.com Best of Jazz 2009
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow #6
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To Vol.1, #7
Year end polls are starting to come in. We would like to thank the following critics for their support:
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To, Vol. 1, # 1
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To Vol.1, # 3
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow, # 9
Michael J. West
Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation & Flow, # 7
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To, Vol. 1, # 1
Steve Lehman Octet - Travail, Transformation, and Flow, # 5
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To, Volume 1, # 6
David R. Adler
Steve Lehman Octet - Travail Transformation & Flow, # 5
Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To, Vol. 1, # 2
Steve Lehman Octet - Travail, Transformation, and Flow, # 3
We would also like the thank
Nate Chinen for choosing Travail, Transformation, and Flow, and This Brings Us To, Vol. 1 as his number one and two picks. Click here to check out the ongoing conversation.
Finally, a special thanks to Seth Colter Walls for citing Travail, Transformation, and Flow in his Newsweek article,
Jazz Is Dead. Long Live Jazz.
hits stores October 27th, 2009. It has been receiving excellent press with much more to come. This Brings Us To
“Ths Brings Us To, Volume I” is a deep and enigmatic album, serene and funky, radiant with purpose.”
Nate Chinen, The New York Times
A disciplined kind of free jazz in which sophisticated, often meticulous compositional forms and strategies merge with an exploratory approach to improvisation and a post-everything inclusiveness.
Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press (Four Stars)
This Brings Us To lunges at the listener with enigmatic twists and Threadgils unmistakable wailing alto sound.
Bret Saunders, Denver Post
The groups sound is thrillingly thorney, Threadgills alto saxophone and flute tones brusk and rough at key moments, rich and velvety at others.
- Marc Medwin, Dusted Magazine
Effortlessly weaving solos into an ever-shifting pulse of brass and rhythm, the tunes offer immediate and visceral pleasures.
This Brings Us To, Volume 1 is a spectacular return from an important jazz composer.
Troy Collins, All About Jazz
The 56th Annual
Down Beat Critic’s Poll results are in and we are pleased to say that a number of Pi Recording’s artists have been recognized for their work over the past year.
Muhal Richard Abrams received 32 votes towards Hall of Fame consideration.
The Vijay Iyer Quartet received 33 votes in the Rising Star Jazz Group category. Additionally,
Vijay received 47 votes in the Rising Star Composer category, 28 votes in the Rising Star Jazz Artist category and 60 votes in the Rising Star Piano category. Tyshawn Sorey also received Rising Star Jazz Artist consideration with 23 votes as well as 29 votes in the Rising Star Drums category.
Roscoe Mitchell received 38 votes in the Soprano Saxophone category.
Rudresh Mahanthappa received 23 votes in the Alto Saxophone category and 85 votes in the Rising Star Alto Saxophone category. Steve Lehman also received Rising Star Alto Saxophone with 48 votes.
Henry Threadgill received 39 votes in the Flute category.
Corey Wilkes received 35 votes in the Rising Star Trumpet category.
Marc Ribot received 26 votes and James “Blood” Ulmer received 25 votes in the Guitar category. Additionally, “Blood” received 50 votes in the Blues Artist/Group category.
Pi Recordings would like to thank all of the critics who recognize the work of our artists year after year.