Get this crazy baby off my head!


Pyeng Threadgill

Pyeng Threadgill - Sweet Home: The Music Of Robert Johnson - 2004 - Random Chance

Singer and arranger Pyeng Threadgill is the daughter of composer, bandleader, and multi-instrumentalist Henry Threadgill and choreographer/dancer Christina Jones, a founding member of the celebrated Urban Bushwomen. Sweet Home offers 11 Robert Johnson tunes in 11 different settings. While more cynical punters and blues purists (ugh) may sigh or wring their hands at such a notion, everyone else can take delight in Threadgill's considerable accomplishment. Unlike mere revivalists like Eric Clapton or Peter Green, Threadgill hears and interprets Johnson's blues as music not of, but for the ages. Certainly she has models here, most notably Cassandra Wilson and Olu Dara, but Threadgill's take on these tunes doesn't attempt to remake them in her image, so much their own. Sweet Home's selections are radical. They take Johnson's songs and strips them of the interpetive, anachronistic baggage that has all but killed the spooky and hedonistic majesty of the originals at the hands of well-meaning but woefully rigid performers. First there's the edgy, swinging jazz read of "Love in Vain," followed by the lean, ragged funk of "Phonograph Blues." The swampy acoustic guitar-and-brass blues of "Milk Cow Calf's Blues" is a nod to earlier times, but feels more like it's being performed in busker style on the lawn of Thompkins Square Park. The lone cello accompaniment (played elegantly by Dana Leong) on "If You've Got a Good Friend" evokes the dignified spirit, if not the timbre, of Nina Simone's ghost, and the jazzed-out, near scatted take on "Dust My Broom," where Threadgill is accompanied only by a double bass and a trap kit, offers the startling—and sometimes hair-raisin— originality of her approach. Likewise the tension between second-line New Orleans rhythms at the heart of "Sweet Home Chicago," where jagged jazz-rock guitar fills are held expertly in the tense grain of Threadgill's voice is jarring, perhaps, but far from unwelcome. She croons, swoons, shouts, growls, whoops, and moans to get these blues across proving in the process that in the current era, these tunes that are enduring to be sure, but they continue to hold a cryptic mystique; they are still alluring because they can be articulated in so many different contexts and retain their seductive power and jagged grace. Threadgill's recorded debut is an auspicious one. She paints her blues shiny black and pushes them headlong into a future where tradition and history are processes of evolution, not quaint curiosities. © Thom Jurek, allmusic.com

If you are a diehard blues purist, and especially a Robert Johbson disciple, then A.O.O.F.C would love your opinion on this album. Also, if you like contemporary jazz or blues jazz vocalists, what are your views on this album? Whatever your ideas, Pyeng Threadgill takes eleven Robert Johnson compositions, and sculpts them into a very original style, mostly jazz based, but also with elements of hip hop, latin, pop, reggae, and even a New Orleans street band feel. She has a beautiful voice, and is very sincere in the way she sings these great blues songs. Also, the songs are in no way degraded by her original adaptions. Of course if you are a blues purist, you may have different views! The album has received widespread critical acclaim from the music press, so obviously somebody likes her unique interpretations of the Johson songs. "Countless artists have recorded Johnson's songs", said the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004, "..but none has rendered them quite like Threadgill." This praise is shared by A.O.O.F.C. As stated before on this blog, there are many ways to play and sing the blues, or indeed any musical genre. Pyeng Threadgill injects these songs with a fresh new jazz spirit, and if she encourages anybody to listen to the original Robert Johnson songs, then that is a good thing. Pyeng Threadgil music is a perfect example of the type of music that A.O.O.F.C is trying to promote. She is part of the ongoing evolution of blues and jazz music, and deserves a hearing. "Sweet Home: The Music Of Robert Johnson" is HR by A.O.O.F.C. Try and listen to her "Of the Air" album, and if you like it, think about buying it


1. Love in Vain Blues (Johnson) - 4:36
2. Phonograph Blues (Johnson) - 3:34
3. Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Johnson) - 3:55
4. Milkcow's Calf Blues (Johnson) - 4:06
5. When You Got a Good Friend (Johnson) - 3:23
6. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom (Johnson) - 3:10
7. Dead Shrimp (Johnson) - 6:08
8. They're Red Hot (Johnson) - 3:09
9. Sweet Home Chicago (Johnson) - 3:47
10. Come on in My Kitchen (Johnson) - 9:10
11. Ramblin' on My Mind (Johnson) - 5:33


Pyeng Threadgill - Vocals
Ryan Scott - Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Vocals (bckgr), Slide Guitar
Dana Leong - Trombone, Bass (Electric), Cello, Guitar (Bass)
Dave Pier - Piano
Luz Fleming - Fender Rhodes
Qasim Natvi - Drums, Percussion
Dimitri Moderbacher - Clarinet
Kevin Louis -Trumpet
Laura Johnson, Ian Jeffreys - Vocals (bckgr)


In her written introduction to Sweet Home (Random Chance), young vocalist Pyeng Threadgill rather boldly refers to herself as "the instrument for bringing the music of Robert Johnson into the 21st Century." Which may be news to guitar genius (and diehard blues devotee) Eric Clapton, whose own tribute to the legendary Mississippi bluesman has been riding the charts most of the summer. Clapton, smart enough to appreciate that it takes a lifetime of joy and pain to invest Johnson's songs with the hard-won wisdom they require, wisely waited until he was 59 to deliver Me and Mr. Johnson. Threadgill, daughter of celebrated composer and multi-instrumentalist Henry Threadgill, is less than half Clapton's age. And it shows. She has a glorious voice, sweet and smooth as apple butter, and has a firm intellectual grasp on Johnson's sociological themes. Emotionally, though, there's significant disconnect. Her renditions of "Dead Shrimp," "Sweet Home Chicago," "When You Got a Good Friend" and eight other Johnson classics are gorgeous. But, apart from a "Come on in My Kitchen" that sizzles with seductive spirituality, they're lacking the requisite belly fire. Better to leave the heavy lifting to Clapton. Better yet to go whole hog and get Legacy's 41-track, two-disc compilation of Johnson's own Complete Recordings. © Christopher Loudon , © 1999–2009 JazzTimes, Inc. All rights reserved

All About Jazz Review


Vocalist Pyeng Threadgill is a born iconoclast: the daughter of composer Henry Threadgill and choreographer Christina Jones, she combines influences from Swing, New Orleans brass bands, hip hop, and alternative rock in her interpretations and compositions. Still unsure as to whether to make jazz her musical home, she is as likely to be found singing songs by pianist Fats Waller as by bluesman Robert Johnson or the eighties New Wave band The Cure. Threadgill grew up in the eclectic cultural stew of New York City's Lower East Side in the 1970s: Polish, Puerto Rican, African-American, Chinese, and Jewish communities coexisted within the neighborhood. Threadgill cites crooners Sam Cooke and Al Green, bebop vocalist King Pleasure, and bands Depeche Mode and A Tribe Called Quest as among her early musical influences. She studied classical music at Oberlin College in Ohio. Threadgill's 2005 debut album, Sweet Home, is a set of wildly creative interpretations of songs by iconic bluesman Robert Johnson. “Phonograph Blues” has a swinging, brassy funk beat that turns an optimistic ear on the original’s double-entendres and surrealism. “Milkcow’s Calf Blues,” meanwhile, evokes the work of guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer with its slide guitar and horns with no rhythm section, Threadgill’s voice seems to float above the impressionistic background. “Sweet Home Chicago,” despite its name, draws inspiration from a city much further south, New Orleans. With its rattling snare drum and march-like upbeat dirge, Threadgill offers fresh insight into something easily turned into a cliché.On Sweet Home, Threadgill extends, disrupts, interprets, worries, and flaunts the inconsistencies of the blues even as she wrestles with their basic primal impulses. Mixing swing, New Orleans tailgate brass bands, hip hop, and alternative rock, she plays with the expectations of a conventional jazz audience. As she said in an interview with John Murph in Jazz Times: "I wanted each song to be different. Otherwise what would be the point?" Threadgill's 2005 album Of the Air intersperses original compositions with covers of “Close to Me” by The Cure and Fats Waller's “Jitterbug Waltz.” Originally conceived as a duet of cello and voice, the album incorporates cello, as well as brass and reed instruments and subtle electronic embellishments. “Power Trip” uses an expressive barrage of baritone saxophone in a tough-minded cloying seduction. “Ambrosia” seems to combine the brooding textures of Cassandra Wilson with the sprightly intoxication of pop singers such as Karen O, lead singer for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On “Close to Me,” Threadgill invests the gothic ambience of the original with a sensual, even provocative clarity. "Am I a jazz singer? I used to say no, then I said yes, and now I'm kind of thinking no again," Threadgill told the Boston Globe's Siddartha Mitter in 2006. "I'm somewhere between jazz, singer-songwriter, and pop artist." Threadgill has received a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts in Music Composition for her upcoming album Portholes To A Love & Other Short Stories, which consists of original compositions based on short stories to explore concepts of reality and magic, humanity, and nature. Threadgill is married to Nikolai Moderbacher, a sculptor and furniture designer, with whom she has a 2 -year-old daughter, Luna. She is also trained as a teacher of The Alexander Technique, a relaxation therapy popular with both dancers and musicians. [ from www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/2009/8/19/threadgill-pyeng ]


A.O.O.F.C said...


p/w aoofc

Anonymous said...

Seems very interesting but what is the password?
Thank you..

Anonymous said...

sorry, i have it.
Thanks a lot

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, Anon....p/w is aoofc for most posts. Thanks, & please keep in touch

Anonymous said...

This is the best album of Robert Johnson covers...better than Peter Green, better than Eric Clapton. Thanks!

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, Anonymous. Unusual blues covers, but really good. Glad you like her versions. Thanks for comment, and please keep in touch