Composer, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Henry Threadgill has been a seminal figure in the vanguard of contemporary instrumental music since the early 1970s. He has created a body of music that includes more than 150 recorded works that, while firmly rooted in America's Great Black Music tradition, often integrate forms and instruments historically associated with chamber or orchestral music. It's no surprise that Threadgill won Best Composer honors in Downbeat's International Jazz Critic's Poll in 1991, 1990, 1989 and 1988, when he placed in 11 categories and had two albums nominated as Record of theYear. A more remarkable tribute to his craft is the fact that he received the composer award in 1988, 1989 and 1991 from Downbeat's readers, as well.
Threadgill's music has been performed by some of the most acclaimed and adventurous instrumental ensembles of the past two decades: the trio Air, which emerged from the core membership of Chicago's visionary cooperative, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), to become one of the most influential bands of the 1970s and early 1980s; the resourceful seven piece Sextet he formed in the early 1980s and led through the advent of the 1990s; such specialty units as X-75, his 20 piece Society Situation Dance Band and his Marching Band; and his current group, Very Very Circus. He has also received diverse commissions ranging from music for small ensembles such as the Roscoe Mitchell and Rova Saxophone Quartets, to larger works for the American Jazz Orchestra Salute to Harold Arlen, the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.