Ethan Iverson discusses Henry Threadgill's upcoming Pulitzer Nights Shows


Read Ethan Iverson's program notes for Henry Threadgill's upcoming concerts

News | Sep, 8th 2017

Due to illness, Henry Threadgill’s performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 22nd and 23rd have been postponed. No further information about rescheduling is available at this time.

Who better to muse on the music and many accomplishments of Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz composer Henry Threadgill than Ethan Iverson? The iconoclastic pianist, bandleader, and composer is perhaps best known for his work with The Bad Plus, but he is also one of the most prominent jazz writers working today, and his own interviews with Threadgill provide fascinating windows into the creative process. For his program notes for Threadgill's upcoming Sep 22-23 concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center(tickets available here),Iverson draws deep on his discussions with Threadgill and his own familiarity with the master's catalog to paint an insightful portrait of one of jazz's most innovative thinkers:

Henry Threadgill loves to make innovative and fun music that shows no regard for category. The blues, the dance, the resolutely abstract, the brainy, the soulful: it is all celebrated in the Threadgillian vision. In recent years, Threadgill has moved from being a composer on the fringes of the scene to being at the center. The Pulitzer Prize was just one of many recent official kudos. However, no matter what further awards show up in the mail, Threadgill will keep his music raw, spontaneous, and local. He will continue mentoring the best young experimental New York City musicians blending composition and improvisation, many of whom will be heard in this unique overview presented over two nights at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Double Up plays Double Up Plus with special guest Luis Perdomo (Friday, September 22)

The lovely Double Up record, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, was a tribute to Threadgill’s late collaborator Butch Morris. The concluding elegy was particularly striking to long-term Threadgill fans, simply due to the astonishing piano writing. For almost all of his career, Threadgill has had little to do with the piano (with the notable exception of a duo with the estimable Myra Melford), and here were two pianists in full flower. At Jazz at Lincoln Center, Double Up Plus will have three great pianists: David Bryant, Luis Perdomo, and David Virelles. Threadgill says, “When I first came to New York, all the pianos I had access to were awful, out-of-tune, and beat up. I left that alone. “At the same time, I started on piano. The instrument I had the longest relationship to was the piano. The legacy of all that written Western music for piano is kind of intimidating, in a way. Liszt, Bach Chopin, Aaron Copland…everybody! You just go down the line. I was always waiting for a definitive time to hear a new way for piano to exist in my music, and that time is now. For David, David, and Luis, the piano part is fully notated—there are no shortcuts—but there’s also, of course, room for improvisation.”


14 or 15 Kestra: Agg (Saturday, September 23)

This brand new ensemble will premiere “Dirt and More Dirt,” inspired by Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room, on perpetual display on Wooster Street and maintained by the Dia Art Foundation. De Maria’s work was suggested to Threadgill by David Hammons, the artist responsible for the striking artwork included in tonight’s program. Another inspiration is the poem “Love After Love” by the late Derek Walcott, which is specifically referenced at the conclusion of “Dirt and More Dirt.”

Threadgill had expected Walcott to attend this concert, but now the new work is dedicated to the poet’s memory. Threadgill notes, “Dirt is everywhere. We are all dirt in the end. A lot happens with ‘Earth.’ “14 or 15 Kestra: Agg is all my previous groups together. However, when we rehearse, we internalize the references and let it come out fresh. This process is really the way I work. When I write for a chamber orchestra or have another commission for people who aren’t my own group, I have to simplify and kind of spell it all out. But in my own groups there is the chance to get inside the process.” There isn’t enough space here to address all of the wonderful instrumentalists onstage at these concerts, but we should at least allow a special mention of the great Jose Davila; if there is one instrument especially associated with Threadgill’s 21st century output, it must be tuba. “In the beginning, all the bassists played tuba first. Even when I was in the service, the same musician played bass in the concert band and tuba in the marching band. In my music, the tuba can perform a bass function, but it can also blend with string and woodwind instruments in a way a bass cannot. It’s that blend that I love that has kept me going with tuba all these years.” All the way back and all the way forward: the music of Henry Threadgill is here and now at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

      --Program notes by Ethan Iverson

“Love After Love”

By Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,


and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you


all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,


the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Buy tickets to Threadgill's Friday, September 22nd performance of Double Up Plus plays Double Up Plus with special guest Luis Perdomo

Buy tickets to Threadgill's Saturday, September 23rd performance with 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg

Read more of Ethan Iverson's musings on jazz at his website


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