Henry Threadgill

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016
Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015

New York, NY

For over 50 years, Henry Threadgill has been “perpetually altering the meaning of jazz” (Chicago Tribune). His self-described “creative, improvised music” blends black American music from ragtime to gospel to free jazz with contemporary chamber music. He has led many bands, including Air, Sextett, Zooid, and Double-Up. He has received commissions from Carnegie Hall and Bang on a Can All-Stars and been awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music, the Doris Duke Impact Award, New Music USA Project Grant, USA Prudential Fellowship, and Guggenheim Fellowship. He is an early member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and has been voted “Composer of the Year” in the DownBeat Critics Poll multiple times. His latest release, Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (Pi, 2012), employs his unique pitch system existing outside traditional Western music. In 2014, Harlem Stage held a two-day tribute in his honor called Very Very Threadgill. He was inducted into the ASCAP Wall of Fame in 2015.

  • Henry Threadgill
  • Henry Threadgill- “A Day Off,” from Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi, 2012): /78172404
    “A Day Off,” from Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi, 2012)
  • Henry Threadgill- “So Pleased, No Clue,” from Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi, 2012): /78171617
    “So Pleased, No Clue,” from Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi, 2012)
  • Photo Credit: Kate Chumley
    Henry Threadgill

What is the most useful advice you ever received?

I can't say what was singularly the most useful advice ever, but I can think of a few different lasting pieces of advice. One in particular was when I first started playing and was in the first stages of trying to improvise. Well, I went to play with some older musicians and I didn't do well at all. A musician told me that I, "… didn't know the melody." Well what I learned over the years was not just to get a particular aspect clarified, but to also apply this principal to everything one can see and not see when looking at music. I have not stopped looking and looking again at what I thought I understood. It is this constant re-evaluation of what we think we know. So the I didn't know the melody is still my work ethic.