Tag Archives: Ambrose Akinmusire

Henry Threadgill on Looking Forward


Henry Threadgill








Here’s an extract from an interview with Henry Threadgill that I came across via Ambrose Akinmusire. He’s discussing how musicians (or artists in general) have a tendency to try and emulate artists from their favourite era. According to Threadgill, when we’re studying the approaches and techniques of our predecessors, we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that we’ll ever up end sounding like them. Our study of the greats should be a lesson in understanding ‘the history of the music’, with the ultimate aim being progression onto, what Threadgill calls, the ‘second period’. Worth a read!

‘I don’t support the idea of people wasting a lot of time learning to play what somebody else played and get that into their system, and then they can’t get it out. You need to understand what somebody else did, just to understand the history of what you’re involved in. It’s the history of anything; the history of writing, the history of engineering, the history of science. You need to understand what happened in this period, so you can understand how you move to the second period. You look at painting and frescoes and you see where perspective came in and where infinity came in. You need to understand these kinds of things in terms of progression, but if you get stuck in one of these periods by trying to execute and get misled into thinking that you’re actually creating in that style and period, I think you’re misleading yourself. I don’t really believe it’s possible to do it, to play legitimate music form another period, because music is tied into social situations too. Social, emotional reality, and psychological reality is all connected culturally to any art form, and you can’t jump back and place yourself – It’s not like some kind of time capsule where you can go back and be in that cultural moment, which underscores social, psychological, emotional reality. Yes, you can learn on the surface how these things were, but I think it’s a waste of time, a waste of a person who’s trying to become an artist’s time.’

Henry Threadgill


Filed under Opinion Articles

Jazz Lead Sheets


Ambrose Akinmusire

As the tour takes us through Virginia and North Carolina, I’ve been finding time to write out drum lead sheets for some of my favourite jazz tunes. Writing a lead sheet for a song – a kind of blueprint – will not only help you understand it’s structure, it will also give you an insight into the composers process, as well as helping you to internalise the main melody line. I transcribe any information a drummer will need to play the tune, such as the structure, the rhythm of the main melody line and any pushes or phrasings.

An artist I’ve been obsessing over recently is the precocious New York-based trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his Blue Note Records album When The Heart Emerges Glistening. The performances on this album are a masterclass in musical prowess and the listening on display is close to telepathic.

Below is a lead sheet for the second track on the album ‘Jaya’:

Jaya - Full Score2

Jaya album recording:


  • The main melody is a combination of bars of 7/4, 6/4 and 5/4.
  • I hear the recurring 11/4 vamp section as two bars of 6/4 with one beat taken out.
  • The solo section begins with the 11/4 vamp followed by a more frenetic section of three bars of 6/4 and three bars of 5/4.
  • After the solo section there’s an alternate melody line for 6 bars, followed by a return to the main melody.
  • Drummer Justin Brown masterfully glides through the changes of meter, often disguising the downbeat.

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Filed under Jazz Lead Sheets