Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus – live at Salle Le Ges˘Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Quebec – July 9, 1995 – Radio Canada International
Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus in concert this week. Henry Threadgill – alto saxophone, flute- Tony Cedras, accordian – Brandon Ross – guitars – Jose Davila – tuba and Pheeroan AkLaff – drums. It was recorded by Radio Canada International at the Les Ges Festival International de Jazz Montreal on July 9, 1995.
Henry Threadgill came to prominence in the 1970s leading ensembles rooted in jazz but with unusual instrumentation and often incorporating other genres of music. He has performed and recorded with several ensembles: Air, Aggregation Orb, Make a Move, the seven-piece Henry Threadgill Sextett, the twenty-piece Society Situation Dance Band, Very Very Circus, X-75, and Zooid.
He was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album In for a Penny, In for a Pound, which premiered at Roulette Intermedium on December 4, 2014
In the early 1980s, Threadgill created his first critically acclaimed ensemble as a leader, the Henry Threadgill Sextet (actually a septet; he counted the two drummers as a single percussion unit), which released three albums on About Time Records. After a hiatus, he formed New Air with Pheeroan akLaff, replacing Steve McCall on drums, and reformed the Henry Threadgill Sextett (with two t’s at the end). The six albums the group recorded feature some of his most accessible work, notably on the album You Know the Number. The group’s unorthodox instrumentation included two drummers, double bass, cello, trumpet, and trombone, in addition to Threadgill’s alto saxophone and flute. Among the players were drummers akLaff, John Betsch, Reggie Nicholson and Newman Baker; bassist Fred Hopkins; cellist Diedre Murray; trumpeters Rasul Siddik and Ted Daniels; cornetist Olu Dara; and trombonists Ray Anderson, Frank Lacy, Bill Lowe, and Craig Harris.
During the 1990s, Threadgill pushed the musical boundaries even further with his ensemble Very Very Circus. The group consisted of two tubas, two electric guitars, a trombone or French horn, and drums. With this group he explored more complex and highly structured forms of composition, augmenting the group with Latin percussion, French horn, violin, accordion, vocalists, and exotic instruments. He composed and recorded with other unusual instruments, such as a flute quartet (Flute Force Four, a one-time project from 1990); and combinations of four cellos and four acoustic guitars (on Makin’ a Move).
He was signed by Columbia Records for three albums. Since the dissolution of Very Very Circus, Threadgill has continued in his iconoclastic ways with ensembles such as Make a Move and Zooid. Zooid, currently a sextet with tuba (Jose Davila), acoustic guitar (Liberty Ellman), cello (Christopher Hoffman), drums (Elliot Kavee) and bass guitar (Stomu Takeishi), has been the primary vehicle for Threadgill’s compositions in the 2000s.
Dive in and enjoy.