Warming Up

Warming Up

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Doing Some Math With Threadgill

I’ve been listening to and independently studying “jazz” music (in quotes because that word seems to encompass a lot of different musics and now, ultimately, the word just isn’t that accurate anymore - but we still seem to use it...) for a bunch of years now. I try to learn as much as I can about the Greats, but sometimes there are important figures whose work I just have never gotten around to exploring beyond just a surface level. The great Chicago composer, reeds/flute player, and musical thinker Henry Threadgill is one of those seminal figures who I have just kinda missed. I have a few of his Novus/RCA records from the 80’s and I like those, but maybe I haven’t really taken the time to truly listen to them. Critics, writers, and scholars all seem to go crazy over Threadgill, but I just don’t know enough to form my own opinion. After reading the latest post on Ethan Iverson’s “Do The Math” blog, I think that I will have to start doing some investigation.

If you aren’t familiar with Ethan or Do The Math, you should really check out the blog. Ethan is a fabulous pianist and he is best known as being one third of The Bad Plus, one of my favorite jazz bands – and they are a real band with a band sound and identity. Ethan uses his blog as a platform to delve into some pretty heady musical ideas and analyses (and the occasional post about what books he’s into or links that he’s discovered). He also has conducted and posted transcriptions of some fantastic musician interviews. I think the coolest thing about these interviews is that Ethan, being an established and very competent musician himself, knows the right questions to ask. These interviews are some of the best musician interviews out there, regardless of genre. Check out the site and do some searching. There is a lot to be learned.

Anyway, recently Ethan posted a three part interview with Henry Threadgill that he did for the BBC’s “Jazz on 3” program. There’s audio in the links too. Then Ethan posted a follow up with his analysis of some seminal Threadgill records. There are some really interesting ideas presented by Threadgill here and I have to think that one of the reasons why we get to hear these ideas is because Ethan was the one asking the questions. Interesting reading. It definitely helped convince me that I need to really explore the music of Henry Threadgill.

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