1/  Tickled Pink                               (Threadgill)                  6.54
  2/  Dark Black                                 (Threadgill)                  5.26
  3/  Look                                       (Threadgill)                  4.54
  4/  Around My Goose                            (Threadgill)                  8.00
  5/  Calm Down                                  (Threadgill)                  5.35
  6/  Did You See That                           (Threadgill)                  7.43
  7/  Do The Needful                             (Threadgill)                  6.53

          Recorded and mixed by Bill Laswell at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey
          Produced by Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill: alto sax, flute; Liberty Ellman: acoustic guitar; Tarik Benbrahim: oud; Dana Leong: cello; Jose Davila: tuba; Dafnis Prieto: drums.

          2001 - Pi Recordings (USA), PI 02 (CD)


Despite the fact that Henry Threadgill's recorded output has been quite low of late -- Up Popped The Two Lips and its companion, Everybody's Mouth Is A Book, are the first offerings since his brief and frustrating time on Columbia Records' major-label roster -- those in the know have long held the saxist/flutist/composer in the highest regard. And with good reason. Few of today's musicians are as committed to innovation as this veteran of Chicago's watershed AACM. In this and other ways, his name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams, and others of that rarified creative ilk. Despite the deep electric groove that his Make A Move band sets up on Everybody's, Up Popped is the Threadgill album that clearly fascinates the most. Zooid (the term itself, drawn from the world of biology, describes specialized cells capable of "independent," as well as "cooperative," movement) is a chamber-like unit comprised of the leader's alto and flute, complemented by Liberty Ellman's acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim's oud, Jose Davila's tuba, Dana Leong's cello, and Dafnis Prieto's drums. Each of the seven pieces on the album constitutes an entire microcosmic world unto itself, a wildly changeable canvas of gracefully interrelated motives that are explored and reinvented from almost every possible angle. (As in much of Threadgill's recent music, the line between what is improvised and what is through-composed is blurred to the point that it's fruitless to attempt to worry about that aspect.) All that counts is that the listener makes every effort to open him- or herself to the inevitable and organic flow of the music. Luckily, with musicians this talented -- and with a leader as fiery and uncompromising as Threadgill -- this isn't difficult to do. Indeed, there has been little music released in the past several years that is as compelling, or as mysterious and attractive, as this. Longtime H.T.-watchers will no doubt find intimations of most of his previous ensembles and conceptual incarnations here -- like the frenetic "Calm Down," which bristles with the intensity of Air, the wonderful power trio that brought Threadgill to prominence in the 1970s. Yet the bottom line is that Zooid is, when all is said and done, a deeply felt and compelling musical universe of its own. David Prince CDNOW Contributing Writer

David Prince, CDNOW contributing writer (courtesy of the CDNOW website)


Veteran alto saxophonist and flutist Henry Threadgill enters fresh territory with Up Popped the Two Lips. It's the first album by his intriguing, all-acoustic Zooid sextet. Along with a simultaneously issued new effort by another band of his, Make a Move, it also marks his first association with a small independent label in many a moon. A longtime proponent of world sounds, Threadgill plays international matchmaker here in drafting Moroccan oud player Tarik Benbrahim into a string section that includes acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman and cellist Dana Leong. By turns jaunty and mysterious, funky and reflective, the music is characteristically Theadgillian with its contrasts between light and dark, juxtaposition of flighty carnival melodies and assertive zigzag rhythms, tricky time signatures and fulsome unison lines. And in Jose Davila, Threadgill has another excellent tuba player to man an instrument of great importance to his patented sound. But with Benbrahim and Ellman lightening the textures and drummer Dafnis Prieto nimbly threading through them--and doing his share of slashing as well--this may be Threadgill's springiest unit. Up Popped the Two LipsToo Much Sugar for a Dime.

editorial review by Lloyd Sacks (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)


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. The band consists of Threadgill on alto and flute, Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim on oud (listen to Anouar Brahem's 'Thimar' for more stunning oud being played in jazz), 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 objective 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.

Richard Ahmad Bates (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)


I've been eagerly anticipating hearing Henry Threadgill's new band, Zooid, since reading about their NYC debut a year ago. Released simultaneously with "Everybody's Mouth's a Book," with the Make a Move quintet, "Up Popped the Lips" marks yet another textural innovation for Threadgill. Zooid is a string sextet, with acoustic guitar, cello and oud. Yes, oud! Must be a first for jazz. Tarik Benbrahim, the oud player, is Moroccan, tuba player Jose Davila is Puerto Rican, and drummer Dafnis Prieto is Cuban! After the first several listens, I'm not quite as impressed by this record as I am by EMAB (see my review). The album closes strongly -- "Did You See That" features oud and flute, and "Do the Needful" is the most dynamic track, with an urgent alto solo, rollicking drums and tuba, and lovely strings for backdrop. Elsewhere UPTL falls prey to Threadgill's lugubrious tendency and loses momentum from time to time. Despite the excellent sound (with mixing by Bill Laswell), the three string instruments are sometimes indistinct, which must then be a problem with the composition, not the production. So if you are going to hear just one of the two new Threadgill, records, I have to recommend EMAB over "Up Popped the Two Lips." But why choose? Henry Threadgill has been signed by major labels twice that I can recall, by Novus (a subsidiary of BMG) in the 80s -- "You Know the Number" was the first of 3 releases by his Sextet, and it's time to reissue them! -- and then by Sony in the 90s, which released 3 records by his Very Very Circus and Make a Move in 1995 and 1997. Otherwise, he has recorded for a number of independent labels, including Black Saint/Soul Note, so returning to an independent label is nothing new. Threadgill has never compromised his vision, and while I'm sure he wouldn't have minded making more money over the years, I'm glad he hasn't quit!

4 stars out of 5

Astrotrain (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)