Henry Threadgill has made a career out of creating separate identities for the ensembles he creates to perform his music. From his early band, Air, to the legendary sextet, to Very Very Circus, Make a Move (who issued an album simultaneously on this same label), and Zoo-Id. Zoo-Id is, in a sense, a mirror image of Very Very Circus; the tunes are written for extended purposes: elongated harmonics, striking color shifts, and strident multi-dimensional textures. Threadgill plays alto and flute, Liberty Ellman
plays acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim plays oud, and there's Jose Davila
on tuba, Dana Leong on cello, and Dafnis Prieto
on drums. This is a kind of chamber jazz that has its roots in the seam of Eastern and Western music. Middle-Eastern folk songs, jazz, and even Western classical music all intertwine here and are fleeced with European folk music from both sides of the continent. The opener, "Tickled Pink," makes listeners keenly aware of what Threadgill's MO is, with its crisscrossing violin and tuba lines over the angular guitar chords and Threadgill's own loping flute lines. On "Dark Block," the alto and the oud are at seemingly cross-purposes, or at least rhythm. The modal blues "Around My Goose" has elements of flamenco and Uzbekistani folk music woven through Threadgill's distinctive punchy phrasing. Finally, "Do the Needful" rings with an old-style New Orleans flair, even as it reinvents the Western harmonic line, clogging it first with a host of shifting sonorities and then with three simultaneous melody lines in differing harmonic veins. This is a fun, deft, and smart record. Threadgill is more on his game as a composer and as a bandleader than at any point in his career.