b. 15 February 1944, Chicago, Illinois, USA. At college Threadgill shared a saxophone teacher with Anthony Braxton. In the early 60s he played with Roscoe Mitchell and Muhal Richard Abrams in the Experimental Band, the precursor of the AACM. He missed the AACM’s beginnings as he spent several years touring America with an Evangelist Camp, contributing saxophone to the gospel services. Two years in the army had him playing everything from marches to classical music to jazz. In the late 60s he returned to Chicago and his AACM colleagues, playing with Amina Claudine Myers and Abrams and also in the house band of a Chicago blues club. In 1971 he formed Air, a trio with Fred Hopkins (bass) and Steve McCall (percussion) though it was only after 1975 that the group became widely active. Adept on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones as well as clarinet, flute and bass flute, Threadgill’s playing was characterized by a pliancy and exceptional freshness.
In the late 70s he formed X-75, a nonet of strings and winds, which recorded Volume 1 for Arista/Novus. The unusual line-up bewildered promoters and there was no volume two. In 1977 he recorded on Braxton’s For Trio and later played in David Murray’s Octet (1980-2). His X-75 ensemble evolved into his long-standing ‘Sextet’ (although it has seven members there are only six parts), with a fascinating deployment of Hopkins on bass, Deirdre Murray on cello and two percussionists. This group became the vehicle for some of the great jazz records of the 80s: Just The Facts And Pass The Bucket (1983), You Know The Number (1986) and Rag, Bush And All (1988). In December 1987 his composition for strings, percussion and voices, Run Silent, Run Deep, Run Loud, Run High (based on the laws of particle physics) was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
By the end of the 80s he had formed a 19-piece band that played dance tunes, a marching band and a septet, Very Very Circus, with an unusual line-up of two tubas, two electric guitars, trombone, drums plus the leader’s alto saxophone and flute. In 1991, Very Very Circus released their debut recording, Spirit Of Nuff... Nuff, and in 1992 they toured the UK. In the mid-90s Threadgill put together Make A Move, featuring guitarist Brandon Ross, accordion/harmonium player Tony Cedras, bass player Stomu Takeishi and drummer J.T. Lewis. Together with his AACM colleagues Abrams, Braxton and Mitchell, Threadgill remains on the cutting edge of musical exploration: he is a thrilling improviser and a boldly original composer.