Henry Threadgill's third album as a leader came about as his involvement with the Air trio was tapering towards a terminus. Released in 1983, Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket immediately attracted a lot of attention with its peculiarly posed cover photo showing seven musicians in white-gloved funerary finery standing with their backs to the camera among tombstones in a cemetery. Musically, this album is a marvel of collective creativity. Threadgill's approach to his art is comparable to that of Muhal Richard Abrams and other cardinal members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In addition to the leader's flute, clarinet, alto, and baritone saxophones, the ensemble is greatly strengthened by the trombone of Craig Harris and the cornet of Olu Dara, a self-critical artist who indicated in an educational workshop discussion during the '80s that he was satisfied with his ruminative solo on "A Man Called Trinity Deliverance." Olu Dara's later emergence as vocalist and guitarist may be better appreciated as part of a bigger, more complex picture when his earlier recordings with Threadgill, David Murray, James Blood Ulmer, Hamiet Bluiett, Charles Brackeen, and Cassandra Wilson are taken into account. His work on this album is essential listening for those who wish to place his life and work in proper context. The three winds are strongly supported by a pair of string players destined to collaborate as a duo and as co-leaders of a brilliant quintet -- cellist Diedre Murray and bassist Fred Hopkins -- as well as two master percussionists, John Betsch and Pheeroan akLaff. Few bandleaders have managed to perform and record so consistently with the hyper-creative poetic vision and open-mindedness that characterize the 16 albums recorded by ensembles under the direction of Henry Threadgill between the years 1979 and 2001. Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket is among the best of the lot and is well worth seeking out.
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