Last month, I was working on a story about musician-composer Henry Threadgill, who was then composing a piece in tribute to the late musician-composer Butch Morris. Threadgill and I met at DeRobertis Pasticceria and Caffe, not far from where Threadgill and Morris made their homes and established their artistic presences in Manhattan’s East Village. DeRobertis is the sort of place that exudes the humble dignity that results from clarity of focus—to sip espresso and eat sfogliatella there is to grasp what that means—and that has maintained its place on a street and within a neighborhood where gentrification has wiped away most of what once was.
According to the bakery’s website:
The present DeRobertis Pasticceria and Caffe was established by Paolo DeRobertis, our grandfather on April 20, 1904. The original name Caffe Pugliese was in honor of the birthplace of Paolo DeRobertis, Puglia (the Apulia region of Italy) in the Province or Bari. Paolo DeRobertis instilled many passions that have been passed on through four generations. One of those passions was to create and maintain a tradition of family (La Famiglia). The meaning of La Famiglia is to reach across generations with Quality, Tradition and Prestige.
As I sat with Threadgill, he reflected on a relationship with Morris that spanned nearly four decades, and that seemed familial. Threadgill’s comments, which always range far and yet carry a tight logic, focused mostly on those same themes as the DeRobertis clan—Quality, Tradition and Prestige.
As I’ve written in the weeks since about the creative and practical challenges facing musicians here in New York, as well as about tensions over the place of traditional culture in a fast-changing New Orleans, I keep hearing echoes of what Threadgill had to say.
So I’m simply going to spill out some of those comments out, with just the barest (but I hope enough) context: Continue reading “Stuff Henry Threadgill Said”