Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, Engine 27, NYC, Sept 13th
Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, flute; triggered hubkaphone recordings: Liberty Ellman guitar; Tarik Benbrahim oud; Dana Leong cello; Jose Davilla tuba; Elliot Kavee drums
This night, Zooid was a small ensemble doing carefully arranged improvisations centered around triggered digital recordings of Threadgill playing his homemade instrument, the hubcaphone, a gamelan-like percussion instrument made of hubcaps.
The triggering system he used for the digital recording was a midi keyboard controller that initially put up a fight. At first Threadgill announced "We’re having a modern problem" I later heard him say "I don’t know what that thing wants from me, but I don’t think I have it…"
This delay cause an odd feeling in the audience, and Mike and Katie I all agreed that the more time went by, the more we felt like the party goers in Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel.
Things eventually did get started though, with a long recording of the hubcaphone, panned in the Engine 27’s multiple speaker system to orbit around the space of the room like the girl caught in the television set in Poltergeist.
The band would than play over and with these recordings in what seemed like melodic / rhythmic cells, each of which would be oriented around a particular soloing voice and within a particular hubcaphone recording section. All of the soloing was highly controlled and deeply enmeshed in both the written arrangements and the shifting material from the hubcaphone recordings. The soloings felt less like showcasings of individuals than activations of particular agencies of change and variation within a group system.