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*Henry Threadgill was born on this date in 1944. Hs is a Black jazz composer, saxophonist, and flautist.
Henry Threadgill performed as a percussionist in his high-school marching band from Chicago, Illinois, before taking up baritone saxophone, alto saxophone, and flute. He studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, majoring in piano, flute, and composition.
Threadgill was an original member of the Experimental Band, a precursor to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and worked under the guidance of Muhal Richard Abrams. In 1967, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, playing with a rock band in Vietnam during the Vietnam War in 1967 and 1968. He was discharged in 1969. He came to prominence in the 1970s, leading ensembles rooted in jazz but with unusual instrumentation and often incorporating other genres of music. After returning to Chicago, Threadgill joined bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall in the group Air Trio.
He moved to New York City, where he formed his first group, X-75, a nonet consisting of four reed players, four bass players, and a vocalist. In the early 1980s, Threadgill created his first critically acclaimed ensemble as a leader, the Henry Threadgill Sextet (a septet; he counted the two drummers as a single percussion unit), which released three albums on About Time Records. After a hiatus, he formed New Air. The six albums the group recorded feature some of his most accessible work, notably on the album You Know the Number. During the 1990s, Threadgill pushed the musical boundaries even further with his ensemble Very Very Circus.
Since the dissolution of Very Very Circus, Threadgill has continued in unorthodox ways with ensembles such as Make a Move and Zooid. He has had commissions from Mordine & Company in 1971 and 1989, from Carnegie Hall for "Quintet for Strings and Woodwinds" in 1983 and 1985, the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1985, Bang on a Can All-Stars in 1995, "Peroxide" commissioned by the Miller Theatre Columbia University in 2003 for "Aggregation Orb," a commission from the Talujon Percussion Ensemble in 2008, a piece "Fly Fliegen Volar" commissioned and premiered at the Saalfelden Jazz Festival with the Junge Philharmonie Salzburg Orchestra in 2007, a premier of the piece "Mc Guffins" with Zooid at the Biennale Festival in Italy in 2004.
In 2016, Threadgill's composition In for a Penny, In for a Pound was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award. In 2018, Threadgill composed the string quartet "Sixfivetwo" for the Kronos Quartet, which they recorded as part of their "Fifty for the Future" project. In 2020, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced Threadgill as one of four recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships celebrated in recognition of lifetime achievement. In 2023, he published his autobiography Easily Slip into Another World: A Life in Music. He is married to recording artist and ethnomusicologist Senti Toy, also known as Sentienla Toy Threadgill.