IMPROVISED GUITAR SOLOS
ANTHONY BRAXTON flute & sopranino saxophone (on 3 & 4 only)
KENT CARTER double bass (on 9 & 10 only)
JOHN STEVENS percussion (on 9 & 10 only)
1 - SIX FAIRLY EARLY PIECES - 12:21
2 - IN WHOSE TRADITION? - 0:35
3 - REHEARSAL EXTRACT - AREA 7 - 3:21
4 - REHEARSAL EXTRACT - AREA 8 - 6:42
5 - TUNNEL HEARING - 7:18
6 - 10% EXTRA FREE - 3:28
7 - 20% EXTRA FREE - 3:49
8 - SELF-ERASING - 0:15
9 - A BIT OF THE CRUST - 2:26
10 - A BIT OF THE DUMPS - 3:30
11 - THE LAST POST - MORNING - 7:42
12 - THE LAST POST - AFTERNOON - 8:22
13 - POSTSCRIPT - 2:46
14 - POST POSTSCRIPT - 3:49
All analogue recordings made in London (14 is digital)
1: 1971 July 26 - by Ben Christianson
2-4: 1974 June 29 - by Martin Davidson
5-7: 1980 May 28 - by Ben Christianson
8: 1987 February - by Derek Bailey
9-10: 1973 July 30 - by Martin Davidson
11-12: 1979 May 2 - by Derek Bailey
13: 1987 June 12 - by Derek Bailey
14: 1998 October 20 - by Derek Bailey
Total time 67:26
1-2, 8, 11-13 originally issued in 1988 on Emanem LP 3404
(The remainder of that LP was reissued on Emanem CD 4001)
3 originally issued in 1980 on Inner City double LP IC 1041
4 originally issued in 1974 on Emanem double LP 601
9-10 originally issued in 1975 on Emanem LP 304
5-7, 14 previously unissued
This disc comprises various items, mainly from Emanem LPs, that have not made it to CD yet. It is not meant to be a comprehensive portrait - more a sort of scrapbook showing some of the different instrumental approaches that Derek Bailey has used over the years.
In his early free work, Bailey used a six-string guitar with pedal-controlled amplification. This allowed him, among other things, to instantly control the volume of each note sounded, and also to vary the volume during the course of a sound. Using this technique meant that notes could fade in and/or end abruptly, in direct opposition to what happens naturally. The SIX FAIRLY EARLY PIECES from 1971 are a fine example of this approach. They are a complete performance - a set of miniatures that are "highly disciplined examinations of their material which, had they been composed by Berg or Webern, would be required study" (to quote Barry Witherden in Wire Magazine). The stereo gives good separation between the sounds emanating directly from the guitar and those coming from the single speaker. (The source tape has several problems, and for that reason was originally issued in edited format on LP. Both Adam Skeaping and myself have recently spent many hours working on it to make it acceptable in its entirety.)
Around 1972, Bailey added another loudspeaker and another volume pedal to his guitar, enabling him to throw sounds around stereophonically in addition to what he was already doing. IN WHOSE TRADITION?, a short example of this modus operandi, is one of those informal moments when one is glad to have left the tape recorder running.
As an alternative to his stereo set up, Bailey was also using a 19-string (approx) guitar - perhaps the only modified instrument he has used. This can be heard on the two 1974 REHEARSAL EXTRACTs with Anthony Braxton. As well as having several unconventional strings, including two that went around his feet, this guitar leant itself well to bowing, as can be heard. (The following day, Braxton and Bailey played their first duo concert which can be heard on Emanem 4006.)
An edited extract from 1980 - TUNNEL HEARING - is an excellent example of acoustic guitar playing, which Bailey concentrated on after giving up stereo amplification around 1975. There is also an explanation to something which may have been puzzling some listeners. The two EXTRA FREE extracts are more of the same without any explanation.
SELF-ERASING is a self-evident extract from a 1987 cassette letter which had no direct music content.
Back to 1973 for the two BITs, which feature a mono recording of the stereo guitar along with bass and drums played by Kent Carter & John Stevens. These are excerpts from club performances by a Steve Lacy Quintet that also included Steve Potts. (Three complete quintet performances from this concert can be heard on Emanem 4024.)
THE LAST POST, an acoustic guitar cassette letter, was sent to my then wife and myself when we were living in the USA in 1979. It is much too good to be heard by just two people, so it is included complete on this CD, apart from two cuts to remove some private parts from the MORNING section. (On the original LP release, I over-cautiously edited more out, so this version is a couple of minutes of minutes longer.) THE LAST POST, written on the eve of the Thatcher Winter, was in response to the LP release of DOMESTIC & PUBLIC PIECES (now available on Emanem 4001). It was also some time after Bailey's move from Islington to Hackney, hence the sonic introduction to the kitchen. (Voices other than that of the guitarist may be heard from time to time - pay no attention to them, they are not worth listening to.)
POSTSCRIPT is all of the musical section of a cassette letter, sent to us when we were living in Australia in 1987. It was written the day after the commencement of the third devastating season of the Thatcher Winter, and features a newly purchased Martin guitar which Bailey did not keep for long as its non-standard width made it uncomfortable for him to play.
After I proposed the above compilation, Bailey decided to add a POST POSTSCRIPT which brings some things up to date.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (1998)
"A fascinating compendium of pieces by Derek Bailey - some culled from LPs and others previously unissued - that spans 27 years of his remarkably consistent music, consistent in its ability to touch on both the sublime and the absurd. The emphasis is on pieces from the 70s, and the opening piece is an arresting exploration of the sonic possibilities of amplified guitar, like much of Bailey's work, music that seems to issue from a musical intelligence so refined it doesn't require a point of view. That thinking is apparent as well on the acoustic pieces from 1980, and perhaps it's most evident in a series of cassette letters sent to Martin Davidson through the years, on which Bailey plays guitar as he talks about various subjects - weather, a tour of a new home, a new guitar, or playing along with Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath. Occasionally, Bailey's playing will catch his notice and take over from the thread of his talking, but they're all of a piece, right up to a lyrical and almost traditional fragment to conclude the CD. There's enough variety here to make the CD an excellent introduction to Bailey's work, as well as an intimate portrait of one of improvised music's essential makers."
STUART BROOMER - CADENCE 1999
"If you haven't yet heard the acknowledged father of experimental/freely-improvised guitar playing - and if you have - you really should hear this particular collection. Editor Martin Davidson put together a nicely varied selection of solos and small group performances that not only are very tasty, but also showcase the variety of techniques, effects and subtle changes in Bailey's style that have occurred over the last 30 years. Bailey's playing, for all its atonal angularity and often jagged surface, is engrossing and extremely satisfying to those with open ears -- and they don't have to be that open, these days. His sound - especially on acoustic - is big and "physicalist" in a way I'm used to hearing on rural 1920s blues recordings. Listen to 10% Extra Free, a 1980 (yet timeless) solo, and you'll hear a fascinating sequence of compelling, strange inventions: leisurely paced, pointillistic harmonics bang and bounce in the biting timbres of wood and steel, bell-like high notes and pinging grace notes from behind the bridge punctuate a brief block of harsh, chopped chords that test the limits of pain (free-improv isn't always pretty, mind you). It's a musical language that sometimes resembles talking more than singing, but once you're used to it, it makes perfect sense. Of the many DB releases out right now, this one is a great intro for the new enjoyer, a must for the fan. "
TONY MOSTROM - EPULSE 2000
"The godfather of avant-garde guitar is here represented by 14 scraps of recorded work spanning the period 1971 to 1998. It turns out to be an excellent overview of Bailey's art, from the early amplified pieces to improvisations from his middle period when he renounced the electric guitar and played only acoustic instruments, to 1998's Post Postscript, recorded digitally at his home. Bailey's playing is not for the faint of heart - it consists primarily of atonal, scampering chords interspersed with scratches and squeals. Best of all are the excerpts from several 'cassette letters' he sent to Emanem label head Martin Davidson, on which he spins out his confounding guitar parts while bringing his listener up to date on local goings-on, at one point improvising over a radio broadcast of Margaret Thatcher's voice, all the while muttering vulgar imprecations about the state of British politics. Wonderful."
RICK ANDERSON - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE - 1999
"Derek Bailey releases records more often than some folks rent movies, so the question inevitably faces all save the fanatic fan - what's so special about this record that I need to get it instead of the other four or eight that came out this year? Likewise the curious novice will ask him or herself "where the hell do I start?" This generously proportioned record of material from the 70s and 80s has something to offer both. For the novice it's a fine survey of Bailey's work; you hear the guitarist alone and with some key collaborators, playing with stereo amplified and purely acoustic guitar. Bailey's musical language remains purely his own despite frequent imitation; it's a purely improvised and technically rigorous vocabulary of hacks, squeaks, scratches, sproings, and hums deployed using a resolutely non-melodic, non-repetitive syntax whose inexorable yet non-intuitive organisational logic will put your jaw on the floor and use it for a dustpan. If you want to know what he's about, this will tell you more directly than most records because it includes several pieces on which Bailey speaks as well as plays. Those selections are the ones that longtime fans will most want to hear - no other record collects as much Bailey babble in one spot. Whether applied to the contents of his kitchen and the left side of his brain, or to the hapless state of British politics, his speech is as intelligent and ornery as his music."
BILL MEYER - MOE 2000
"Not a long-lost quartet session, mouth-watering though that would be, but a selection of unissued and long-scarce tracks from almost three decades of Bailey's epoch-defining career. They run from the early pieces of 1971 to the Post Postscript of 1998, recorded specifically for this release.
Those Six Fairly Early Pieces are from an Emanem LP issued ten years ago and now unavailable, and it's good to see them back. They have all the hallmarks of Bailey's style, using on this occasion a single volume pedal separated from the acoustic sound in the stereo field. Also included is the very short and chaotically funny In Whose Tradition? from three years later; again, the stereo effects are used to enhance Bailey's palette without becoming gimmicky. Perhaps not so masterful as some of his subsequent work, these are welcome documents of his development and still knock most experimental guitar-playing into a cocked hat.
The previously unissued solo takes from 1980 are prime Bailey, and one wonders just how much of this stuff exists given that it's taken nigh-on twenty years for these to come out. Fifteen minutes of pure magic, followed by two short and exhilarating trios with Carter and a bombastic Stevens, long unavailable and heartily welcomed back to the catalogue. Carter is a bit on the quiet side, but overall these are an extremely involving listen.
The Postscripts refer to tape letters which Bailey sent to Martin Davidson (who runs Emanem) while the latter was in the US at the end of the '70s. They mix guitar playing with talk from Bailey in an engaging and spontaneous manner, making them rather intimate portraits of the man which Davidson must have enjoyed enormously. Bailey plays like an angel - often drifting into uncharacteristically jazzy areas, for satirical purposes but revealingly nonetheless - but his words, taken out of their postcard context, are a little distracting. However much we might agree with him, his political points are heartfelt but there's not much news here. Edward Heath is "the old twot"; Thatcher is "the evil bitch"; "they really are a pathetic lot this time", he mutters. Plenty of vitriol here but not much analysis, which is perfectly understandable in what he was never expecting to be a public document.
Added to these are the Postscripts themselves, the second of which begins with the rather on-point observation that "there must be a limit to how many times we can do this". But these, I suppose, aren't to be thought of as completely-realised musical performances so much as spontaneous sketches, highly personal documents, something like a great writer's diary. On that analogy, then, these are not for the casual listener but will be of great interest to the completist. The disc as a whole, though, has much to recommend it, and one shouldn't be put off by the quirkiness of the final twenty minutes."
RICHARD COCHRANE- MUSINGS - 1999
"The Six Fairly Early Pieces are one track of twelve minutes, and one hears on different channels the acoustic guitar and pedal controlled amplifier. The increased separation makes for an uncanny feeling of a duo, while the pieces are terse, concentrated improvisations on material with special attention on attack and decay effects. Fascinating listening. Tunnel Hearing is acoustic guitar, with wonderful rhythm doubling and phrase variations - a seven minute demonstration track complete with psychological/pshychoacoustic explanation of the purpose of talking while playing; two more tracks (without talking) continue at the same level, with great clarity and purpose. The Post and < B>Postscripts are true musical letters recorded on cassette (the Davidsons were living in America and Australia then); topics in the spoken parts intertwined with the playing include another Emanem release, the weather, Thatcher (speaking from the radio), the sound and furniture of the new Bailey kitchen, Thatcher again (after the third re-election), the new guitar. The Post Postscript is a 1998 update in the same style. Irresistible. Music, sound and production concur to make this an outstanding release that will give you hours of pleasure."
FRANCESCO MARTINELLI - AVANT 1999
"Derek Bailey is the master of the ungroove, of the sound of the moment without reliance on rhythmic or melodic predictability. His guitar music, as well as being tuneless and arhythmic, is forbidding and full of noise effects.
What, then, is Bailey's playing? Well, on this disc it is a collection of crackles and jangles, usually unaccompanied and unhurried, although Anthony Braxton gets Derek going a bit toward the frenetic end of Rehearsal Extract - Area 8. John Stevens and Kent Carter do the same on a couple of electric fragments: A Bit of the Crust and A Bit of the Dumps. And on the amplified sections, like Six Fairly Early Pieces, there's an occasional indulgence of feedback.
It is easiest to hear what Bailey does on the comparatively lengthy (seven minutes plus) and unamplified track Tunnel Hearing, from 1980. Single notes. Small melodic excursions, usually ending in an unexpected but ringing turn. Unexpected progressions of one note or a few, rhythmically varied. The sound of his playing is crystalline and pure, and there's a sample of his wry humour here too. (You'll find more of Derek Bailey the Man Beyond the Legend in the two parts of The Last Post, actual audio letters he sent to Emanem's Martin Davidson, including some trenchant political commentary.) He revels in the clear sounds of the notes, and he carefully and dryly brings them to our attention here. It and the other two pieces from this time period, 10% Extra Free and 20% Extra Free, are especially brilliant examples of the peculiarly affecting quality of his playing. 20% Extra Free verges on a flamenco groove, but our man is too canny to fall in. Yet how captivating are the edges on which he creeps and mutters!
How strange to say that this is great music, but it undeniably is. Derek Bailey has pulled off a miracle by eschewing all the standard ingredients of great music and making it anyway, out of his brilliantine shards and fragments. Recommended."
ROBERT SPENCER - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1999
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