Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp
While Henry Threadgill's illustrious forty-plus-year career has seen him leading outfits as varied as Air, The Henry Threadgill Sextett, Make A Move, and Very Very Circus, the six pieces on the latest outing by his long-standing Zooid group (twelve years and counting), Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp, reveal that Threadgill has in some respects been remarkably consistent despite such changes. There's his penchant for enigmatic titling, of course, but more importantly a compositional style that's immediately identifiable as his and his alone. Even though there are differences in instrumentation between the new release and previous ones, the album's ever-mutating second piece, “Tomorrow Sunny,” wouldn't sound out of place on 1983's Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket or 1993's Too Much Sugar for a Dime.
Zooid can be seen as the natural culmination of the various bands Threadgill's fronted, given its connections to the past—acoustic bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, for example, played in the earlier Make A Move, while Christopher Hoffman occupies the cello chair previously held by Diedre Murray (who played in the Sextett) and Dana Leong (who appeared on the 2001 Zooid recording Up Popped the Two Lips). With Threadgill's alto sax and flute leading the way, the band makes his intricate charts sound easy, which testifies to the generous amount of rehearsal time undertaken prior to the recording. In a given Zooid composition, the group members act more as colourists than soloists, with each filling in tiny details within the album's contrapuntal setpieces. That approach is most clearly witnessed in the slower settings, such as “See the Blackbird Now,” another in a long line of Threadgill dirges, where it's easier to hear how exactly the players' individual statements thread themselves together.One thing Threadgill listeners of long-standing will note as different is the relative quietness of the new recording. In contrast to the raucous spirit of, say, 1990's Very Very Circus outing Spirit of Nuff...Nuff, Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp at times sounds restrained, even delicate. That's not always the case, however: “Ambient Pressure Thereby” finds drummer Kavee, cellist Hoffman, and trombone-tuba player Jose Davila navigating the track's complex pathways with a verve and aplomb reminiscent of Very Very Circus. Any review of Threadgill's latest should perhaps acknowledge Pi Recordings for the role it's played in his career renaissance; after all, not only has the label supported his work since Pi's 2001 inception, its first two recordings—Everybodys Mouth's a Book and Up Popped the Two Lips—were by Threadgill. In truth, this concise, forty-five minute set doesn't necessarily signify a radical advance on the work he's issued before; instead, it might best be seen as one more piece added to a highly distinguished body of work. Above all else, Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp, shows that, as Threadgill nears seventy, his unique voice and admirably uncompromising vision remain intact.