Henry Threadgill – X-75 Volume 1 LP

Henry Threadgill-X75 volume 1

Risk & vision from an illustrious pioneer of both composed & improvised/free excursion, along with much in-between. Side A exacts with Sir Simpleton! From the first cycle of the killer opening bass line, a sly, finagling creeper in ten (plucked simultaneously by two bassists), you know the subsequent events are going to be special. The track is swiftly festooned with an accompanying multitude of reeds, vocals & the third bass component (playing a separate pattern that embellishes the core composition maintained by the two initial bassists). Extensive soling & improvised theatrics effuse from two of the reed players & Myers whilst the remaining musicians conserve the structured chassis. It’s a brilliant song, crammed with unusual styling & methodology, excellent performance, imaginative & unorthodox instrument assignment (four bassists, four reed musicians & one vocalist) & a gloriously fatal bass-lick to spill your splanchnic but good, & this incredibly heteroclite deportment & allocation thrives for the albums duration.

Last on side A is Celebration. This is a slow, sweet & amiable Bluesy Folk song (at least that’s the appearance I perceive). It’s the least challenging, most conventional & coherent song on the album albeit with the abstruse instrumentation of the assemble. The song is quite sentimental or at least on the verge of such sentimentality. Nothin’ wrong with that, but talking from a strictly personal angle this track does not engage me & rarely gets a rotation.

Third of four is Air Song with all basses barred & all four reed players on flutes. This track is the most abstract & least direct, an oblique exploration that resides within the “Flot” (pensive, discombobulated, inconclusive, curious & amorphous type’ shit) margin. For me it works because there is quite a lot of content & a rich array of sounds & approach, something this intensely non-specific & vague style frequently lacks. I don’t get stultified or start shouting at the record player (mf git’ on wit it!) as much of this music impels me to do. it’s not linear, the versatility is copious & despite the somewhat subdued suggestion the musicians exert themselves (in fact the song ends on a crescendo of heightened agitation & kinetics that are developed in the last third). Impressive indeed.

Lastly, the wig-splitter, the cherry on top of the lamp-post, it’s the sublime Fe Fi Fo Fum! Cripes! I lud’ dis shit! Lets’ compartmentalize this complex mother…. Gorgeous walking bass strutting with amped-vamp throughout (who dat?), a knock out solo from Threadgill, marvellous but fairly standard ground. But it’s not long before the rest of the troop start to pile into the overcrowded vessel & rock the foundations with less & less rational playing & escalating histrionics shedding lucidity by the pale by the minute. It get’s more & more out of hand, but the lone lucid bassist just keeps on walking amongst the gathering maelstrom. Superb!

What a great album. Utterly disparate & individual!

Rekd: 1979

Label: Arista/Novus