Credit: Ron Scott photo

From the very beginning the saxophonist, flutist, composer and arranger Henry Threadgill performed his perception jazz on the outer limits of its parameters.

While Threadgill’s music is a creative sparkle in the avant garde, it is his unorthodox instrumentation within the jazz configuration that adds another dimension to his sound.

On Dec. 12 Threadgill and his group Zooid will share their music at The Jazz Gallery (1160 Broadway) located in downtown Manhattan. His longtime intuitive comrades are guitarist Liberty Ellman, celloist Christopher Hoffman, on tuba and trombone Jose Davila, drummer/ percussionist Elliot Humberto Kavee and Threadgill on saxophone and flutes. The music will be spirited and soul cleansing and will transform in and about.

Threadgill is musical force, a creative master whose every performance becomes a memorable experience. In 2016, his composition “In for a Penny, In for a Pound” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music (other jazz musicians include Wynton Marsalis and Ornette Coleman).

He was an original member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in his hometown of Chicago and worked under the guidance and genius of pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams.

During the 1970s Threadgill 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. During the 1990s, he formed his ensemble Very Very Circus. The group consisted of two tubas, two electric guitars, a trombone or French horn, and drums. With this group he augmented Latin percussion, accordion, and vocalists.

Since the early 2000s Zooid with its original members has been Threadgill’s primary group of expression, don’t miss a hearty slice of jazz history. Two sets at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. For tickets visit the website $35/$20 members; reserved table seating $45/$30 members.

Ralph Ellison and his profound novel “Invisible Man” (1953) share the same forward thought as Miles Davis’ album “All Blues”––both of these monumental works will be up for conversation for eternity. While “Invisible Man” won the National Book Award in 1953, he never published another novel (except for the posthumous novel, “Juneteenth,” published after being assembled from notes he left upon his death). He did go on to write “The Shadow and Act” (1964), a collection of essays; as well as critical essays on political and social aspects of America, social identity, Harlem and jazz (his critical perspective and reviews on jazz music and musicians are well

worth reading).

To get an intimate look of Ellison’s world from his humorous wit, political perspective, and even the difficulty attempting to get ingredients for making chitlin’s in a foreign country, visit the Schomburg Center on Dec. 12 (tonight) at 6:30 p.m. Its program will feature authors and historians reading letters from the new collection: “The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison” edited by John F. Callahan and Marc C. Conner.

The readings will be followed by a conversation with participants John F. Callahan, literary executor for Ralph Ellison; Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural critic and author, Margo Jefferson; Robert G. O’Meally, the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and founder and director of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies; Brent Hayes Edwards, author, professor, and director of Schomburg Center Scholars-in-Residence program.

Ellison, a longtime Harlem resident moved here from Oklahoma City, OK in 1936, residing briefly at the YMCA on 135th Street. On the literary scene he met and became longtime friends with Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Albert Murray and artist Romare Bearden. Ellison died in New York City on April 16, 1994.

This event is free and open to the public reservations are a MUST visit the website


From Dec. 17-21, the pianist and composer Monty Alexander, who has entertained audiences for six decades, hits Birdland jazz club (315 West 44th Street) for two shows each night at 8:30 p.m.

and 11 p.m.

Alexander’s music is a bag of spirited melody-making grooves swing in his Jamaican roots. His repertoire ranges from reggae swing to hard bop hipness in the tradition of Horace Silver to Thelonious Monk, one of his influences.

All tickets $30-40, $10 food/drink minimum. For reservations call 212-531-3080 or visit the website

The drummer, composer, and arranger Ulysses Owens Jr. recently debuted his new quintet Generation Y, at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. The young guns still looking to make a name for themselves included trumpeter Drew Anderson, saxophonist/flautist Alexa Tarantino, pianist Luther Allison, and bassist Phillip Norris.

Generation Y proved to be the best young group of 2019; they have a fresh sound that activates your senses. Oddly enough the group has that 21st century swing that harks back to those hard swinging groups led by Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes. They showcased originals by Owens’ “Soul Conversation” an up-tempo soul flair, “Until I See You Again” by pianist Allison, closing with “Chicken and Dumplings” jazzy funk. They play as a united front, never overpowering even with their fiery solos. Remember their names, they are all young cookers even their elder Owens, who seems to have a knack for putting incredible bands together, as he brings steam to his own presence, as a leader.

Generation Y came dressed to impress, the cats were wearing ties and suits and Alexa dressed elegantly in black. Two other stylish groups include those led by pianist Christian Sands, and drummer Willie Jones III.

The following night Owens returned to Dizzy’s with his Big Band an extension of his acclaimed New Century Jazz Quintet, which featured another group of rising stars with Owens, pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, alto sax Tim Green, and trumpeter Benny Benack III. The big band configuration adds 11 worthy musicians to the mix offering a greater platform for a creative excursion.

The 16-piece Big Band boasts the presence of four young ladies, who are real cookers on the bandstand, no pun intended. As Owens stated, “I am making a statement these ladies deserved the job, this has nothing to do with a female quota. When you lead a band all you want to know is can the musician play their butt off every night, do they fit into the group’s musical formula.” From my observation these ladies––like the young men––met all the qualifications, burning on all cylinders and their solos were superb. Their names are Erena Terakubo on alto saxophone 2, AlexanTarantino on alto sax 1 (she is also a member of the hard-hittin Generation Y), Gina Benalcaza, trombone 3, and Summer Camargo. “They bring a certain edge to the band,” said Owens.

The big band’s sound was crisp with a 21st century swing in the tradition of Jimmy Lunceford and Count Basie. Owens noted he was inspired by bassist Christian McBride’s Big Band and Michael Dees impressed on him the importance of starting his own band. Owens’ compositions “BeardenX” was a tribute to the artist Romare Bearden and Malcolm X, an up tempo tune with sparks and his “Red Chair” moved as a thoughtful ballad with explosive solos in unified soul. Special guest vocalist Charles Turner III engaged a roaring sound on his versions of “Nature Boy” and his original “Harlem, Harlem, Harlem.”

“When I play in a big band it takes me back to the church playing with a choir where I started,” said Owens. “This big band helps me bring more young people into the music. It’s all about bringing up the next generation.”