There have been times when Threadgill's single-minded attention to a concept has left me behind. With X75, everything is held in equal suspension. Foreground and background, soloist and ensemble, merge to the extent that there's no focal point, nothing to hang onto. Flutes, basses, voice spin out endless simultaneous melodies with no sense of tension or release — or maybe all tension, depending on your mood.

The new Zooid album, This Brings Us To . . . Volume II, is a collection of yet more beautiful and fascinating ensemble structures. It's a quintet this time, with Threadgill's flute and alto, Liberty Ellman's guitar, José Davila on trombone and tuba, bass-guitarist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee. Sometimes I wish that Threadgill would just bust out a burning alto solo, or that the band would hit an explicit dance-rhythm groove. Instead, the music is a bit recessive, Threadgill laying back on alto and flute, Ellman's guitar more often in acoustic mode than electric.

No matter. An artist like Threadgill makes questions of linear growth irrelevant — he seems to hit a peak with everything he tackles. He's written for all manner of ensembles, and if he weren't a bandleader, maybe he'd be an academic composer pitching to orchestras and chamber groups, waiting for the BSO to call. Instead he's out getting his music played the best way an innovative composer can: by playing it himself, with his own bands. The music on the Mosaic box may be out of print, but a couple of early Sextett albums are available from the Boston label that first issued them, About Time (about-time-records.com). And Threadgill is out there too, still writing and playing music like no one else's.

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  Topics: Jazz , Henry Threadgill, Henry Threadgill, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians,  More more >
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