Henry Threadgill, the 68-year-old US musician, was described by the New York Times as "one of the most thrillingly elusive composers in and around the jazz idiom". Here's the latest from his unique 12-year-old Zooid sextet, a standout of last year's London jazz festival. Schooled in classical composing, Threadgill boldly applies those resources to melodic development and the interplay of dynamic, textural and rhythmic contrasts – but the phrasing and nuances come from jazz. Zooid's unusual mix of brass, strings, percussion, and Threadgill's sax and flutes offer a very broad palette for a six-piece. This album is pure Threadgill all the way, from the opening softly popping tuba sounds over a drum shuffle to Liberty Ellman's twangy guitar lines, ingeniously paired by the leader's whirring flute figures. Mournful cello whispers are shadowed by cymbals, and deep alto-flute reflections are embraced by Spanish-sounding guitar parts. At the close, a solemnly spoken intonation of the recording credits sounds like Threadgill's invitation to consider where the music on this album really ends. It's highly wrought, serious contemporary music, but it's full of soul and quiet vivacity, too.
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