The Wizard of Odd


Ecellence and eccentricity go fpk hand in hand with die compos^ et-saxophonist Henry Threadgill. His first trio. Air, looked conventional enough until he added a wall of discarded hubcaps, which he called a “hubkaphone.”Then there was the poll-winning seven-piece band, including a cello and two drummers, that Threadgill insisted upon calling Sextetl.

Last year’s fascinating Song Out of My Trees (Black Saint) features what must be the first piece for four different guitars (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) plus hunting horns.

Threadgill has ereHenrV Thread9MI ated nothing more distinctive than his septet Very Very Circus. Formed in 1990, it features the leader’s alto sax and flute with French horn, drums, two guitars, and two tubas. This makes for an exotic, rambunctious, and often danceable mix that grows more intriguing as new instrumental colors are added. Carry the

Day (Columbia), the fourth album of Threadgilfs Verv Yen Circus era, is the most accessible and spirited vet.

Alone, on “Between Orchids...”and “Jenkins Boys...,”the band creates looping melodic sequences and tag-team improvisations that risk clutter vet somehow result in clarity. When accordion, violin, percussion, vocals, and the Chinese pi pa are added to create Very Very Circus Plus, the music enters a magical, Ozlike realm, as if the Andes had moved into proximity with the Himalayas and whirling dervishes were learning to dosi-do. Threadgilfs alto, one of the most pungent saxophone sounds in jazz, adds bite to the surprisingly clean instrumental weave; yet the primary story here is his writing, a blend of the homemade and the universal which suggests that he may be contemporary music’s answer to Charles Ives. —B.B.