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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • An autobiography of one of the towering figures of contemporary American music and a powerful meditation on history, race, capitalism, and art.
A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker
Henry Threadgill has had a singular life in music. At 79, the saxophonist, flautist, and celebrated composer is one of three jazz artists (along with Ornette Coleman and Wynton Marsalis) to have won a Pulitzer Prize. In Easily Slip into Another World, Threadgill recalls his childhood and upbringing in Chicago, his family life and education, and his brilliant career in music.
Here are riveting recollections of the music scene in Chicago in the early 1960s, when Threadgill developed his craft among friends and schoolmates who would go on to form the core of the highly influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM); the year and a half he spent touring with an evangelical preacher in the mid-1960s; his military service in Vietnam—a riveting tale in itself, but also representative of an under-recognized aspect of jazz history, given the number of musicians in Threadgill’s generation who served in the armed forces.
We appreciate his genius as he travels to the Netherlands, Venezuela, Trinidad, Sicily, and Goa enriching his art; immerses himself in the volatile downtown scene in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s; collaborates with choreographers, writers, and theater directors as well as an astonishing range of musicians, from AACM stalwarts (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, and Leroy Jenkins), to Chicago bluesmen, downtown luminaries, and world music innovators; shares his impressions of the recording industry his perspectives on music education and the history of Black music in the United States; and, of course, accounts for his work with the various ensembles he has directed over the past five decades.
About the Author
HENRY THREADGILL was born in Chicago in 1944. In 2016, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for In For a Penny, In for a Pound, an album he composed for his sextet, Zooid. He lives in New York.
BRENT HAYES EDWARDS is a Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University and the Director of the Scholars-in-Residence Program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.
“Vividly told, alternately uproarious and devastating, Easily Slip into Another World serves up astonishing tales of Threadgill's life in Chicago, Vietnam, New York, and on the road, punctuated by deep revelations about the Black experience, American empire, an artist's life, and the entire history of music. Threadgill and Edwards have crafted an invaluable literary experience: a real-life Bildungsroman, plainspoken, erudite, and searingly honest. This book will be savored and cherished for generations.”—Vijay Iyer, Composer and Pianist; Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Harvard University
“The personal, the political, the musical, the spiritual: all merge in this brilliant, beguiling memoir by one of the major musical minds of our time. Easily Slip into Another World not only documents a radically inventive individual talent but also celebrates a singularly vital collaborative community — that of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. It shows the indivisibility of what comes from within and what comes from without: making music as a way of being in the world.”—Alex Ross, music critic, The New Yorker, and author of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
“Easily Slip into Another World is the vibrant autobiography of Henry Threadgill, a fearless explorer whose music and performance transcends categories and genres. His encompassing vision and adventurous spirit of inquiry have influenced generations of composers and musicians. This book is an affirmation of the power of creativity to change our world and discover new ones.” –Meredith Monk, Composer, Singer, Director/Choreographer
“The same passion and joy that Henry Threadgill brings to his life is manifested in his perpetual quest for the right sound, the right composition, the right combination and collaboration. Anybody with a spark of creativity in any part of their lives should take inspiration in his unrelenting commitment to experimentation as the spirit that drives us to revelation. After reading this book, full of insight and humor and even a tiger passing in the night, I suggest you turn on some of Threadgill’s music and do as he says: listen."—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Sympathizer
“"I frequently call Henry Threadgill my favorite living composer not only because of the webs of sound he spins, but also because he is the best storyteller I know. This book is a profound gift: it reminds us that composition is not just making music, but also shaping a life."—Jason Moran, Composer and Pianist, Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center
“Without question Easily Slip into Another World will be one of those books we talk about, read, and re-read for years to come – a new classic autobiography, building upon and upending the tradition of the genre at the same time. It is breathtaking.”—Farah Jasmine Griffin, Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies, Columbia University