Henry Threadgill Opens At The New Roulette
BY EMILIE PONS: NOV. 2011
ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, idiosyncratic figure Henry Threadgill, a Chicago native, performed with his sextet Zooid at the new Roulette location, in Brooklyn, near the famous BAM theatre. A “zooid,” according to freedictionary.com, is “an organic cell or organized body that has independent movement within a living organism, especially a motile gamete such as a spermatozoon.” Go figure.
Henry Threadgill’s music is not exactly the easy listening type. On the contrary, it can be a little complex, and bewildering. And one may need to be initiated to listen to and appreciate Henry Threadgill’s band Zooid, currently a sextet with tuba (Jose Davila), acoustic guitar (Liberty Ellman), cello (Christopher Hoffman), drums (Elliot Kavee), and bass guitar (Stomu Takeishi). In any event, it is full of energy, it rocks and it is most vibrant. Threadgill can easily switch back and forth between the alto saxophone and the flute. He is also a sophisticated composer. For the last 40 years or so, he has greatly contributed to the improvised music scene in the United States. He was an early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and was pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ mentee. Abrams (one of the four founders of the AACM) and Threadgill are both highly creative free jazz musicians, and for the last ten years or so, Threadgill’s compositions have mostly been performed by Zooid, which is, again according to freedictionary.com, “an independent animallike organism produced asexually, as by budding or fission.”
The new Roulette is much bigger than in the past and for its opening, it scheduled many different artists, such as Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose work was performed by Camilla Hoitenga on flute and piccolo. Hoitenga performed “Dolce Tormento” and “Noa Noa” with video work by Saariaho’s husband, Jean-Baptiste Barriere. Pianist Margaret Leng then performed several pieces by John Cage. She was followed by violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier who played their own compositions as well as sections of John Zorn’s Masada Book II (Book of Angels), which was very appropriate for Roulette, the house of free, experimental music. Their blend of chamber and avant-garde music was delightful.
Zooid closed the show and played for only about half an hour, which was much too short. Why? Because once one starts entering Threadgill’s original “animallike organism” world, which explores unexpected rhythmic and melodic musical paths, one wants to stay in it for a little longer. It is perhaps an acquired taste, but once acquired, a difficult one to relinquish. Moreover, Roulette’s main idea for that evening was “variety.”
Roulette used to be a cozy club in Soho and has now relocated to Brooklyn, on Atlantic avenue; this time, it has two floors, so that one may enjoy a concert from different sonic perspectives and angles. The space might be a little trendier but is not as cramped as the former location. As a result, it may also feel a bit more serious. “The acoustics are different,” explained Henry Threadgill. “In a few weeks they will be different again.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to compare the old Roulette to the new one,” added the saxophonist. “But it feels good to play here.” One good thing about it is that it is right in front of a huge diner where one may occasionally see and chat with Butch Morris, another highly creative musical guru, who, like Threadgill, also served in Vietnam. Morris attended the show and waited for Threadgill at the end of the show. Together, they obviously form a beautiful pair of accomplices.
HENRY THREADGILL OPENS AT THE NEW ROULETTE