This week's single song review shines a light on avant-jazz composer/flautist/altoist Henry Threadgill. A part of the seventies whack jazz movement that brought us such luminaries as Julius Hemphill, David Murray, and the Art Ensemble of Chicaco, Threadgill was one third of the modern creative ensemble Air with bassist Fred Hopkins and percussionist Steve McCall until they called it quits around 1982. Since then, Threadgill has released a long string of albums under varying unique band configurations, but he started out with his Sextett, which had his alto sax (and sometimes flute,) percussion, trumpet, trombone, bass, and cello.
Threadgill's career or certain albums of his would make an excellent topic to drool over for another day, but today I want to fix your attention to one track of his that's a little out of character for him. For one, "I Can't Wait To Get Home", from 1987's Easily Slip Into Another World, is not even his composition, it belongs to the jazz trumpeter/guitarist Olu Dara (*note - for all you rap fanatics out there, Olu is Nas' daddy... in the literal sense.) I never heard Dara's version, but as Threadgill plays it, it's a real funky calypso.
In contrast to most of Henry's own compositions, "Home" is simply built around two chords. The tune starts with Hopkins declaring those two chords while either Pheeroan Aklaff or Reggie Nicholson comes in on drums, using a heavy foot on the bass drum and seeming to be straining to cut loose. The trumpet and trombone's chart played between the chords adds another layer and in the following chorus Threadgill himself appears on alto, first playing in a fairly pedestrian manner and then getting progressively out of control into almost a skronk-fest. Meanwhile, the drums and bass break free into chaos while the horn section keeps the two-chord melody going. And then, abruptly, Henry stops while Hopkins and Aklaff/Nicholson revert right back to the straight foward beginning section. The song ends on Hopkins' brief statement, the entire track clocking in at just over four minutes.