Give me Liberty

Wedge Matsumoto wrote a nice piece about Henry Threadgill at YBCA recently but homey that I am, I skimmed the article for mention of Bay Area guitarist Liberty Ellman, who plays or did play for years in Thread’s sextet, Zooid.

Liberty lists about a dozen upcoming gigs with Somi (a vocalist, and please note there was once a Bay Area fixture called Liberty and Ledisi), Joe Lovano and Myra Melford, side work but pretty high end stuff.

Liberty has 3 cd’s as a leader but also mixes and produces for others and put out, for instance the first Vijay Iyer on his Red Planet label. That, plus he was on the team at Blue Note that made Norah Jones a star — he has a platinum record in his Brooklyn office, or did — most of my Liberty news is somewhat dated.

I’ve raided his photo gallery for the following:

by Alan Nahigian

by Alan Nahigian

This one is by Liberty himself, on tour with Threadgill, called “threadblur” and I admit before five minutes ago I never called Henry Threadgill “thread”. When I went to Brooklyn on sabbatical in Jan-Feb 2001 I asked Hans Wendl what I should try to see and he said “Henry Threadgill”.

photo by Liberty Ellman, guitarist, producer, lover fighter, mensch

photo by Liberty Ellman, guitarist, producer, lover fighter, mensch

Liberty also went to Sonoma State – I didn’t know him then but my ex SS and her friend CL new him there, as well as Larry Allen of the Cowboys — and also composed and performed for SFMT. Here he is with Zooid in Austria, back in the day:


Also by Liberty, of Dana Leong, Threadgill, George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrahms, Roscoe Mitchell. Doesn’t say whether he was in the band or just cooking for them in the literal sense. I’m kidding, he was in the band. Reminds me of the time that I met Eddie Gale thru Mimi Dye, at yoga class, her. And I set up a meeting with Eddie but got distracted chatting up Liberty about how I might deal with an elder and legend like that — Eddie was on Blue Note back in the day — and I got so far down that rabbit hole that by the time I got to Gale’s digs near SJSU he had left and sent his sister to tell me that I had blown my op. Oops.

thread mue etc, by Lib

thread mue etc, by Lib

It would be good to see Liberty Ellman out here on the West Coast.

Meanwhile this Somi is in residence at UCLA, might be worth a trip to check her out (or maybe that’s where Lib is today?):


and1: Threadgill was born Feb. 15, 1944 in Chicago. So we have that much in common: Aquarius, from the South Side. To the extent that for 20 years now I have been obsessed with black musicians, jazz and blues and am from Chicago, I wonder how close my dad or grand pops came to meeting or interacting with legends; we had a business, from 1919 to 1968 that sold to the black community, Chevys, but my dad’s tastes are more like Keely Smith than Muddy Waters or AACM. My grandfather, Morton B. Weiss, was a U Chicago 1919 and was in Blackfriars which means he cross-dressed and wrote bad Cole Porter rhymes. If I have my way — and dad is doing great — I will try to direct some of his estate to the Alton Abraham File set up by John Corbett, if that is not too big of a digression, even in a Threadgill Liberty joint. At least I remember that I started as a Liberty Ellman joint, and I just may make it to UCLA to meet this Somi. I’m sure men have gone further. Helen of Troy by way of East Africa. If not a thousand ships, then one more seat on SWA.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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