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In his previous groups, Henry Threadgill has demonstrated a penchant for unusual instrumental combinations -- tubas, accordion, harmonium, harpsichord, cellos, etc. -- but in this newest version of Make a Move, he opts for a relatively conventional line-up. The rhythm section of Dafnis Prieto on trap drums and bassist Stomu Takeishi is often inspired, with the dazzling twenty-two year old Cuban literally soloing from start to finish on many of the CD's eight tracks, yet still driving the music forward. Bryan Carrott's marimba and vibes contribute further percussive accents, and the intricate multiple meters and contrapuntal figures add up to a rhythmic feast for the listener. When Brandon Ross kicks in on electric guitar, the quartet sometimes sounds like the old Gary Burton group at the top of its game. Ross is a remarkably adaptable guitarist, playing a crisp, precise acoustic on a chamber jazz piece such as "Platinum Inside Straight," and then ramping up on electric during the modal, Coltrane-ish "Where Coconuts Fall," leaning on the distortion pedal as he evokes the spirit of the late Sonny Sharrock.
Even without Threadgill, this quartet would be a great listen, but his compositions and instrumental work take the music to a whole other level. As both composer and musician, Threadgill has a strong connection to Ornette Coleman, but while his music, like Coleman's, is often abstract and angular, with unexpected key changes and multiple melody lines, it also has a stronger intellectual component than Coleman's, and is often substantially written out.
Threadgill's knowledge of the jazz tradition is both encyclopaedic and catholic; he moves gracefully from classically-flavoured chamber jazz and pensive ballads to spiky blues, free jazz and a healthy heap o' funk. As a soloist, he's equally impressive - both economical and authoritative. His flute is lyrical, but also lean and sinewy, while his alto playing is punchy and sometimes ecstatic, in the manner of late Coltrane or even Albert Ayler. Compositionally, Threadgill's vectors are seldom obvious, but when he arrives at his destination, the journey always makes perfect sense. Eat your heart out, Wynton Marsalis, this is the REAL future of jazz.