Reviews that mention Derek Bailey

June 7, 2021

Derek Bailey/Mototeru Takagi

Live at FarOut, Atsug 1987
NoBusiness NBCD 132

Newly discovered recordings from one of the occasional Japanese tours by British guitarist Derek Bailey (1939-2005), these improvisations from 1987 match him with an equally iconoclastic player, soprano saxophonist Mototeru Takagi (1941-2002). Takagi with whom Bailey had recorded in 1978 usually worked with local Free Jazz innovators like Masayuki Takayanagi. But since non-idiomatic improvisation is more of a global language than Esperanto, neither player is out of his element here.

There are points where Bailey and Takagi chug along in broken octaves, playing parallel lines rather than connective ones. However since both are self-possessed, fissures aren’t obvious. As the visitor, Bailey has most of “Duo II” to himself, detouring into pierced chords and crunching echoes as he moves the exposition from andante to allegro. When Takagi joins for the final sequence the interaction becomes higher pitched and more robust. Besides that, the duets take up greater or lesser time, fully abstract except for one anomaly at the end of “Duo I” when the saxophonist slips in a brief Monk quote. Before that Takagi’s piercing soprano trills meet up with first slurred fingering and then ringing guitar flanges from Bailey as he picks apart and reassemble the narrative. Speeding up on this, the lengthiest track, altisssimo squeaks and string hammering confirm the narrative’s intensity, eventually dissolving into final reed whistles and downward string strums. MORE

March 23, 2021

George Lewis

Rainbow Family
Carrier 051

By Ken Waxman

Although 1984 may not seem that far back, the tracks on this CD capture some of the first concerts George Lewis organized in Paris following his work at IRCAM that matched his interactive computer music with live improvisers. Culled from three days of performances, the high quality of the results is probably because, while the software was novel, each participant was experienced in close listening and sound interaction. Recorded as human-and-computer duets and finally a collective improvisation, the participants are British guitarist Derek Bailey, French bassist Joëlle Léandre, long-time American-in-Paris soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and Lewis’ AACM cohort Douglas Ewart playing bass clarinet, flute and bamboo flute. MORE

December 11, 2020

London Jazz Composers Orchestra

That Time
NotTwo MW 1001-2

Peter Kowald Quintet

Peter Kowald Quintet

Corbett vs Dempsey CD 0070

Marion Brown

Why Not? Porto Nova Revisited

ezz-thetics 1106


Live At The Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf 1978

The Lost Tapes Of Austrian Free-Jazz Avantgarde – Vol. 1

Black-Monk BMCD-03

Hershoo Beshoo Group

Armitage Road

We Are Busy Bodies WABB-063

Something in the Air: Care and Craftsmanship Means that Unusual Sessions are Back in Circulation

August 17, 2020

Virtual Company

Virtual Company
Confront core series/core 12

A gimmick that transcends its gimmickry, Virtual Company is a purposeful matching of live and pre-recorded sounds from living and dead musicians to sophisticatedly create a never to be repeated concert. Unlike other discs which grafted a modern rhythm section onto Charlie Parker solos or used technology to forge a duet between Natalie and Nat King Cole, bassist Simon H. Fell used random algorithms to organize a live session featuring the on-the-spot improvising of himself and cellist Mark Wastell with fragments taken from solos by guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005) and tap dancer Will Gaines (1928-2014), separated by numerous pre-recorded silences. Critically this experiment works even better as an audio session than it probably did at the London club in which it was created. For while the live audience would have noted the absence of two players all are aurally present during the over 46½ minute performance. MORE

February 6, 2019

Instant Composers Pool

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD056

Milford Graves


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD052

Roscoe Mitchell


Delmark DE 4408

Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson

The Haunt

NoBusiness Records NBCD 105

Cosmic Forest

The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

MPS 4029759122562

Something in the Air: CD Reissues help define the massive musical changes of the 1960s and 1970s

By Ken Waxman

As the advances musical and otherwise that transformed the 1960s and 1970s recede into history new considerations of what happened during those turbulent times continually appear. Reissues of advanced music recorded during that time, some needlessly obscure, some better known, help fill in the details of exactly what happened. MORE

February 6, 2018

Spontaneous Music Ensemble (1968)

Karyobin are the imaginary birds said to live in paradise
Emanem 5046

Steve Lacy

Free for a Minute (1965-72)

Emanem 5210

Hans Reichel (1973)

Wichlinghauser Blues

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 033

Roscoe Mitchell (1977)

Duets with Anthony Braxton

Delmark/Sackville SK 3016

Something In The Air: Historical Free Music Documents Reappear on CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguably the most important and least understood sound of the 20th Century, Free Music which combined jazz’s freedom with noted music’s rigour, while aiming for in-the-moment creation has now been around for almost six decades. With its advances now accepted as part of the ongoing sonic landscape, long out-of-print are being reissued and reappraised for their excellence. MORE

November 26, 2017

Convergences, Divergences & Affinities: Further Beyond Jazz, the Second Wave of English Free Improvisation, 1973-9

By Trevor Barre
Compass Publishing

Forced to exist in a musical universe that values popularity and money over other qualities, Free Music and one particular sub set, British Improvisation, has always inhabited a unique, almost heroic area. It’s unique because most of its major stylists are instantly identifiable once they start playing; it’s heroic because a raft of UK musicians continues to inhabit the field despite mass indifference. Like Theodore H. White writing in his multi-volume The Making of the President series on American politics, Trevor Barre brings the same attention to detail as well as examining overriding trends in order to perfectly situate the musical, societal and sociological circumstances that contributed to the birth and dissemination of this music. MORE

April 6, 2017

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Withdrawal (1966/7)
Emanem 5040

Barry Guy

The Blue Shroud

Intakt CD 266

By Ken Waxman

Organization and innovation are the concepts most closely associated with British bassist Barry Guy. A classically trained musician, he early on established himself as a masterful soloist in groups led by pianist Howard Riley and others. By his mid-twenties however, Guy, who turns 70 this month, had made in music the same sort of transcendental leap Woody Allen effected in film by demonstrating memorable skills as director as well as actor. Guy’s founding of and compositions for the London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra in 1972 demonstrated that precise notation and free-form improvisation could coexist. From then on, like a hyperactive Jekyll and Hyde, the bassist has enthusiastically directed and played with large ensemble while utilizing his string prowess in a dizzying number of smaller bands. MORE

April 12, 2016

Anthony Braxton & Derek Bailey

First Duo Concert
Emanem 5038

Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink


Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020

Willem Breuker Kollektief

Angoulême 18 Mail 1980

Fou Records FR-CD 9&10

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden

Frictions/Frictions Now

NoBusiness Records NBCD 79

Something In The Air: Preserving Rediscovered Free Music Classics

By Ken Waxman

Fully grasping the intricacies of musical history often depends on the availability of recorded documents. That’s why many musical histories are re-evaluated once hitherto little known performances become accessible. This is especially crucial when it comes to completely or mostly improvised sounds. Reissued and/or rediscovered sessions, which preserve ephemeral moments, confirm the music’s wide dissemination. More importantly they add the equivalent of additional sentences that provide a fuller understanding of the free music story. MORE

January 1, 2016

NPR’s 10th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

Ken Waxman (The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


  1. Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  2. Daniel Carter-William Parker-Federico Ughi, Navajo Sunrise (Rudi)
  3. François Carrier-Michel Lambert-Rafal Mazur, Unknowable (Not Two)
  4. Anna Webber, Refraction (Pirouet)
  5. Tim Berne, You've Been Watching Me (ECM)
  6. Evan Parker, Seven (Victo)
  7. Samuel Blaser, Spring Rain (Whirlwind)
  8. Akira Sakata-Giovanni Di Domenico-John Edwards-Steve Noble, Live at Cafe Oto (Clamshell)
  9. James Falzone & the Renga Ensemble, The Room Is (Allos Documents)
  10. George Freeman & Chico Freeman, All in the Family (Southport)

November 16, 2015

On Screen

Taking The Dog for a Walk: Conversations with British Improvisers
A film by Antoine Prum

By Ken Waxman

Part travelogue, part history, part performance and part philosophy, Taking the Dog for a Walk is the definitive portrait of British Free Improvisation. Yet from the first sequence showing drummer Mark Sanders improvising alongside a bingo caller, the genre’s sardonic humor implicit in isn’t neglected either – note the vintage clip of Lol Coxhill and other improvisers in zoot suit disguise playing at a beach resort.. Even the title references the hoary jape that three men and a dog was BritImprov’s typical audience. MORE

May 24, 2015

Tony Oxley

A Birthday Tribute: 75 years
Incus CD 63

A superior if somewhat inconsistent homage to British master drummer Tony Oxley for his 75th birthday, this CD concentrates more on his skills as accompanist and pioneering electro-acoustic musician than his breakthroughs as someone who worked out a new style for percussion in Free Music.

Oxley’s new drumming concepts in the mid-1960s moved him from being an in-demand London-based Bopper to early experiments with guitarist Derek Bailey and later long-time associations with pianist Cecil Taylor and trumpeter Bill Dixon. However A Birthday Tribute: is a bit patchy, since the five live tracks match two 1993 improvisations by the drummer, Bailey, keyboardist Pat Thomas and sampler player Matt Wand with three 1977 selections with different players. Using amplified percussion as opposed to an un-electrified set on the first numbers, Oxley plays one number alone, one with the late trombonist Paul Rutherford, whose horn is similarly electrified, and the longest with the still-very-active violinist Phillip Wachsmann plus guitarist Ian Brighton, who seems to have vanished from the scene. MORE

February 1, 2015

Derek Bailey/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis/Evan Parker

Dunois 1982
Fou Records FR-CD 06

Frank Lowe Quartet

Out Loud

Triple Point Records TPR 209

Don Pullen

Richard’s Tune

Delmark/Sackville CD2-3008

Steve Lacy

Cycles (1976-80)

Emanem 5205

Ted Daniel’s Energy Module

Energy Module

NoBusiness Records NBCD 72/73

Something In The Air: Revolutionary Records Redux

By Ken Waxman

About 40 years on, so-called Free Jazz and Free Music from the late sixties, seventies and early eighties, doesn’t sound so revolutionary any more. The idea of improvising without chord structures or fixed rhythm has gradually seeped into most players’ consciousness, with the genre(s) now accepted as particular methods for improvisation along with Bop, Dixieland and Fusion. Historical perspective also means that many sessions originally recorded during that period are now being released. Some are reissues, usually with additional music added; others are newly unearthed tapes being issued for the first time. The best discs offer up formerly experimental sounds whose outstanding musicianship is more of a lure than nostalgia. MORE

May 26, 2012

Iskra 1903

Emanem 5013

Without the controversy implicit in discovering relics from biblical times, Goldsmiths offers up six fascinating performances by the first edition of Iskra 1903, whose influence dwarfed its hitherto miniscule discography. Consisting of trombonist Paul Rutherford (1940- 2007), guitarist Derek Bailey (1930- 2005) and bassist Barry Guy, and named for the newspaper Lenin edited before the Russian Revolution, Iskra proclaimed not only its political radicalism, but in choice of instrumentation, a change from the larger and percussion oriented bands with which all three had been affiliated. MORE

February 20, 2012


Weight of Wax WOW 04

A hitherto unreleased session now made more audible through modern technology, this CD captures the unmistakable spiky playing of the late British guitarist Derek Bailey in cohesive improvisations alongside London saxophonist John Butcher, with whom he often played at the time, and visiting American percussionist Gino Robair. More crucially it’s a valuable addition to the guitarist’s burgeoning discography.

By this point the playing of Bailey (1930-2005) was very much sui generis. Having along with others, mid-wifed the growth of self-defined improvised music in the United Kingdom, his tart and acerbic method of string scraping and finger-picking had retained constant whether playing with older associates or newer musicians world-wide. As open to multiple pairings and new partners as Bailey, Butcher had by this time (2000), perfected soprano and tenor saxophone multiphonics making his tones as distinctive as the guitarist’s. Rather than being odd man out, Bay area percussionist Robair, whose rhythmic versatility is expressed by labelling his percussion instruments energized surfaces, had already set up a playing relationship with Butcher. But this is his only recorded meaning with Bailey. MORE

March 14, 2011

ECM 40th Anniversary Catalogue

Edited by Kenny Inaoka
Tokyo Kirarasha

Tell No Lies Claim No Easy Victories

Edited by Phillipp Schmickl

Impro 2000

As globalization intensifies, American-birthed popular music forms – most especially Jazz and Improvised Music – have evolved far beyond their initial audiences, confirming one of the hoariest of clichés, that music is a universal language. Creative music of many stripes has for many years been often treated more seriously in Europe and Asia than in North America. Consequently to be truly informed about the breadth of musical sounds it helps to understand other languages besides English. That’s the challenge related to the valuable books here. Neither is published primarily in English, but both can serve as resources for followers of Jazz and Improvised Music, no matter their native tongues. MORE

August 12, 2010

Derek Bailey

Lot 74
Incus CD 57

Elliott Sharp

Octal: Book Two

Clean Feed CFG 004 CD

By Ken Waxman

Respectively the alpha and the omega of guitar free improvisation, the late London-based Derek Bailey (1930-2005) and the very much alive New Yorker, Elliott Sharp, offer two variants on a solo program with these notable discs.

Recorded in 1974, Lot 74, demonstrate Bailey’s mastery of free music, which he had helped midwife into existence a few years earlier. The reissue is particularly notable, because on two tracks he uses an un-amplified 19-string instrument. MORE

August 12, 2010

Elliott Sharp

Octal: Book Two
Clean Feed CFG 004 CD

Derek Bailey

Lot 74

Incus CD 57

By Ken Waxman

Respectively the alpha and the omega of guitar free improvisation, the late London-based Derek Bailey (1930-2005) and the very much alive New Yorker, Elliott Sharp, offer two variants on a solo program with these notable discs.

Recorded in 1974, Lot 74, demonstrate Bailey’s mastery of free music, which he had helped midwife into existence a few years earlier. The reissue is particularly notable, because on two tracks he uses an un-amplified 19-string instrument. MORE

January 21, 2010

Derek Bailey/Steve Noble

Out of the Past
Ping Pong 004

Michael Wertmüller/Olaf Rupp

The Specter of Genius

Jazzwerkstatt JW 052

Except in the most primitive form of blues or so-called roots music, the unadorned sounds of guitar and drum together aren’t usually considered polyphonic enough to be anything more than Spartan. Yet, as he did with so many other musical conventions during his life, British guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005) defied this one as well.

The 12 tracks from this never-before issued 1999 session with inventive London drummer Steve Noble are jam-packed with sonic textures and impressions radiating only from the multi-faceted operation of Bailey electric guitar and Noble’s drum kit and additional cymbals. Instructively as well, with sessions like this extant, the configuration has lost its strangeness. On The Specter of Genius, for instance, – with no indication of who is the genius – two Berlin-based players whose influences encompass Punk Rock and Heavy Metal as well as Free Improv and contemporary notated music offer their variations on this theme. Recorded about a decade after the Noble-Bailey meeting, the improvisations by self-taught guitarist Olaf Rupp and drummer Michael Wertmüller, who studied music intensively in Berne and Amsterdam, differ from the other CD due to the drummer’s larger kit and Rupp’s use of both acoustic and electric guitars. MORE

January 21, 2010

Michael Wertmüller/Olaf Rupp

The Specter of Genius
Jazzwerkstatt JW 052

Derek Bailey/Steve Noble

Out of the Past

Ping Pong 004

Except in the most primitive form of blues or so-called roots music, the unadorned sounds of guitar and drum together aren’t usually considered polyphonic enough to be anything more than Spartan. Yet, as he did with so many other musical conventions during his life, British guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005) defied this one as well.

The 12 tracks from this never-before issued 1999 session with inventive London drummer Steve Noble are jam-packed with sonic textures and impressions radiating only from the multi-faceted operation of Bailey electric guitar and Noble’s drum kit and additional cymbals. Instructively as well, with sessions like this extant, the configuration has lost its strangeness. On The Specter of Genius, for instance, – with no indication of who is the genius – two Berlin-based players whose influences encompass Punk Rock and Heavy Metal as well as Free Improv and contemporary notated music offer their variations on this theme. Recorded about a decade after the Noble-Bailey meeting, the improvisations by self-taught guitarist Olaf Rupp and drummer Michael Wertmüller, who studied music intensively in Berne and Amsterdam, differ from the other CD due to the drummer’s larger kit and Rupp’s use of both acoustic and electric guitars. MORE

August 8, 2009

Music Outside, Contemporary Jazz in Britain

By Ian Carr
Northway Publications

Hindsight may be 20/20, but this reprint of Ian Carr’s 1973 classic Music Outside, reveals that he beats the law of averages. However, anything written 36 years ago resonates with the attitudes of the time. Some musicians who seemed significant then are more the province of nostalgia than admiration; others mentioned briefly are major figures.

Parenthetically that sense of being of one’s time makes Roger Cotterell’s contemporary postscript frustrating. While he does tie up loose ends and outlines the subsequent career of some musicians, a few are still ignored. His updates are also mostly personal anecdotes. MORE

December 6, 2006

Derek Bailey

To Play: The Blemish Sessions
Samadhisound Sound CD ss008

Free improvisation’s answer to composer John Cage, British guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005) was as much a theoretician as a performer. Someone who inculcated the idea of permanent improvisation, Bailey lived by the credo as well. During the course of his long career he was as open to trading licks with neophyte rock-oriented players as the most respected international jazz figures.

Fundamentally however, Bailey was never more impressive as when he played solo. These memorable eight tracks – all entitled “Play” – conclusively demonstrate this. Recorded in 2003 before illness muted some of his inimitable tropes and techniques, the spur-of-the-moment improvisations are one of a piece, yet also linked to the distinctive FreeImprov modus operandi that Bailey and others evolved and modified in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Manipulating both an acoustic and an electric guitar, all the hallmarks of his mature style are on show. Jagged runs, single-string snaps and below-the-bridge strums share space with chromatic pulsations, percussive rasgueado, animated flat picking and microtonal slurred fingering. MORE

November 27, 2006

Evan Parker

The Topography of the Lungs
psi 06.05

More heard about than heard, ever since Britons Derek Bailey and Evan Parker had their falling out in 1987, which included the proviso that The Topography of the Lungs (Incus 1), would not be reissued as long as Bailey ran the Incus label, the 1970 four-track LP has taken on the status of a totemic object.

Finally available again on Parker’s psi label, following Bailey’s death, and expanded with two additional tracks, the 1970 session lives up to its reputation as a defining artifact of European Free Improv. Yet 36 years later what resulted from the collaboration among Parker on soprano and tenor saxophones, Bailey on guitar and Dutch percussionist Han Bennink now sounds if not commonplace, at least contemporary. The saxophonist’s split tones and extended slurs, Bailey’s fastidious string manipulating and bending plus Bennink’s volleys of cymbal scratching and drum top pummeling have become lingua franca of a certain segment of the improv world. MORE

July 21, 2006


With Derek Bailey
Foghorn Records FOGCD006

Perhaps the most unintentionally shocking part of this 2004 live London gig by the British Bruise band joined by guitarist Derek Bailey is its cost, reprinted on the back CD cover: “₤5/₤3 concessions”.

While a bargain for the audience, it proves once again that no matter how well-known someone like the guitarist was in the improv world, he was still doing local gigs for the equivalent of the price of a beer a little more than a year before his death at 75. Obviously no one ever got rich – or is it comfortable, in both senses – playing improv. MORE

April 17, 2006

The Sound of Squirrel Meals: The Work of Lol Coxhill

Edited By Barbara Schwarz
Black Press

By Ken Waxman
April 17, 2006

Perhaps the sort of player who only could have thrived in the ever-shifting scene that developed in the United Kingdom starting in the mid-960s, soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill is one of improvised music’s most distinctive characters.

In truth, the bulky, bald-headed Portsmouth-born saxophonist has always been a fellow traveller to Improvised Music, but never quite a card-carrying member. That’s because his quirkiness – and need to make a living – has encompassed a multiplicity of gigs, most of which he’s accepted with the same equanimity of spirit. In other words he’s been just as satisfied playing a featured role with punk band the Damned and other rockers as improvising with fellow reed masters like Steve Lacy and Evan Parker. He has been part of oddball vocal-and-instrumental groups like The Melody Four as well as more serious endeavors like the London Improvisers Orchestra. He has appeared as a TV and film actor. Plus he’s spent days busking outdoors almost as often as he’s been featured in proper concert settings. MORE

December 5, 2005


Meanwhile, back in Sheffield
Discus 21CD

The Ins and Outs
Emanem 4116

Free Improv merry-go-rounds, these CDs feature veteran players from the United Kingdom extending themselves in previously unrecorded trio formations.

Oversight and commitments to other groups are why, after a decade of existence, the fine Free Base trio debuts on record with THE INS AND OUTS. Conversely, MEANWHILE, BACK IN SHEFFIELD captures on disc a now-uncommon occurrence: the first live gig in a decade by that British city’s best-known native improviser: guitarist Derek Bailey, now a Barcelona-resident. He’s joined by local Mick Beck on tenor saxophone, whistles and bassoon, and drummer Paul Hession from Leeds. Both men have played individually with Bailey, but never recorded with him in this formation. MORE

October 31, 2005


The London Concert
psi 05.01

Mining the seam - the rest of the Spotlite sessions
Hi 4 Head Records HFH CD003

Combining and splitting apart numerous times in various bands – ad hoc and not –during a period in the late 1960s and early 1970s now seen as the genesis of British Free Music, guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer John Stevens (1940–1994) are almost universally acknowledged as dual catalysts who nurtured the nascent scene.

Although over the years both improvised with just about anyone and mentored a large number of younger musicians, Stevens had, and Bailey still has, a fairly prickly personality. That meant that at the same time newer players were being initiated into freer sounds, one or both was usually carrying on a feud with older associates and sometimes with one other. Bailey has maintained from that time that every performance should be completely improvised with each creation a tabla rasa. Less rigid, Stevens didn’t disdain composition and wasn’t above playing jazz, Free Jazz and a touch of jazz-rock. MORE

August 22, 2005


Cloud Plate
Cryptogramophone CG 121

The Gospel Record
Shaking Ray SRR-CD004

Using the human voice in improvisation can be tricky. Singing words brings with it the fear that metrical qualities will overtake spontaneous interaction; used wordlessly, its proper place among other instruments is suspect and sometimes redundant.

CLOUD PLATE and THE GOSPEL RECORD deal with variations of these snags and neither fully overcomes the obstacles. On the first CD, Kaoru – no last name – so diffuses her vocal timbres through electronics that often you lose track of the human element, especially when she seem to be expressing herself in ethereal tones that are neither Japanese nor English. Conversely, Amy Denio intones the lyrics of the gospel songs on the other session with such bright-eyed conviction, despite the instrumental mayhem behind her, that you’re not sure how much is parody and how much Pentecostal. MORE

October 1, 2004

Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation

By Ben Watson
Verso Books

by Ken Waxman

October 1, 2004

Endlessly inventive as an improviser and a superb organizer, guitarist Derek Bailey is also opinionated, combative, passively aggressive, dogmatic and often self-satisfied. Still, the 74-year-old Sheffield, England-born Bailey is pretty much at Ground Zero when it comes to discussing Free Music, at least in its British manifestation.

London-based critic Ben Watson attempts to explain both the man and his music in this volume. Yet Watson also tries for much more than standard biographical, chronological and discographical fact gathering. He not only ponders Free Music’s place among other, more commercial musics, but also tries to show how experimental sounds reflect musicians’ liberation from what he sees as a class-ridden, capitalist society. MORE

September 13, 2004


Scale points on the fever curve
Emanem 409

Staple of jazz records for more than 70 years, recorded meetings between star soloists moved full fledged into improvised music when it came along. Prominent improvisers seem to change their playing partners with the regularity of Jennifer Lopez exchanging paramours though, and it sometimes appears as if each release brings a new grouping.

Chief serial switcher must be London-based guitarist Derek Bailey -- grand old man of Britimprov -- who in his desire to always make things new, seems to record with every musician he meets. He also revisits partners from time to time -- sort of like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton -- and this CD is a memento of a reunion gig in London with multi-instrumentalist Milo Fine. Fine’s Free Jazz Ensemble (FJE) has maintained its commitment to improvised music since the late 1960s from a base in Minneapolis, Minn. MORE

April 26, 2004


Song for Someone
psi 04.01

Epitome of the polite, quiet Canadian, trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler has now lived in Great Britain for more than a half century. During that time he’s gone from playing in large dance and bebop bands to working with international free music ensembles to creating a modified synthesis of all those influences as his own music.

This direct reissue of a 1973 LP may have been when it was first released the most conventional item on what was then guitarist Derek Bailey’s and saxophonist Evan Parker’s Incus label. Wheeler had already played free music with drummer John Stevens and was soon to begin an association with experimenters like American reedist Anthony Braxton and the German-based Globe Unity Orchestra. But except for a couple of tracks, the pieces he wrote for this date mostly meld his big band past with his moody, reflective streak. MORE

November 17, 2003


Live at Lamar’s
Shaking Ray Records SRR CD-003

Incus CD 56

Getting a handle on Derek Bailey’s recorded and performing output is like trying to grab Jell-O with a catcher’s mitt -- some sticks, but most slips away. The length and breath of the British guitarist’s almost 40 years of musical associations just as a committed improviser is staggering in breadth and unconventionality.

Bailey has said that he considers ad-hoc musical activities essential, and he always appears to be ready, willing and able to play with anyone at any time. Over the years his partners have ranged from those as recognized as fellow EuroImprov theorizers such as drummer Tony Oxley and saxophonist Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann to unique throw downs with a potpourri of lesser-known solo players, dancers, DJs and even head-banging rhythm sections. MORE

October 6, 2003


More Nipples
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP236CD

Prime cuts of Peter Brötzmann and company at his most ferocious, the 40 minutes of music on this CD were literally forgotten until 2002 when FMP founder Jost Gebers discovered this cache of unreleased tapes in his archives.

Living up to the series title, the three tracks were recorded at the same 1969 session that produced NIPPLES (Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 205 CD), one of the German saxophonist’s most distinctive early sessions, that itself was out-of-print for years until reissued in 2000. Unlike that disc, British saxophonist Evan Parker and guitarist Derek Bailey are only featured on the title track. The other two highlight the reedist’s quartet of the time, completed by Flemish pianist Fred Van Hove, the late German bassist Buschi Niebergall and Holland’s Han Bennink on drums and percussion. MORE

December 16, 2002


European Echoes
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 232CD

The Living Music
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 231CD

Multi-reedman Peter Brötzmann always insists that when pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and trumpeter Manfred Schoof first heard his pioneering free jazz band in the mid-1960s “they just laughed their asses off. At that time they played the Horace Silver-style thing”. But, by the end of the decade as Brötzmann widened his circle to include other experimenters like Dutch drummer Han Bennink and worked with American jazzers like trumpeter Don Cherry and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, his fellow Germans began to come around as well. MORE

October 7, 2002


Hopscotch Records HOP 10

Excessive intellectualism is one of the most common properties ascribed to completely improvised music like this. Especially if, as on this duo CD, it involves experienced European virtuosi such as Spanish pianist Augustí Fernández and British guitarist and elder statesman of the genre, Derek Bailey.

But, while the collective biographies of the two encompass experience in contemporary classical music, dance band sounds, studio pop and most definitely jazz, a cozy duo session like this one could be linked to an earlier tradition. Performing together in a Barcelona studio, aren’t Fernández and Bailey expressing themselves in a so-called folkloric way? Bringing experience and mother wit into play as each deals with the other’s techniques and inspirations, they appear to be following early urban blues partnerships such as pianist Georgia Tom and guitarist Tampa Red or pianist Leroy Carr and guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. MORE

December 17, 2001


Hello, Goodbye

During the long period in the 1970s and 1980s when he was metaphorically alone in the wilderness, as practically the only advanced improviser in Norway, alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad developed an extended playing relationship with British drummer John Stevens. However this recently discovered almost 73½-minute document is the only time the two worked in tandem with guitarist Derek Bailey.

Bailey, who is often as theoretical as Stevens was spontaneous, was along with the drummer an early BritImprov creator and worked with Stevens many times as a sort of “fellow traveler” to the drummer’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME). But this disc preserves the only meeting -- so far -- between the guitarist and the alto saxophonist. Recorded by Gjerstad on a portable DAT machine during a 1992 concert in his hometown of Stavanger, and computer-corrected in 2000, it’s an instructive example of how three originals can interact without giving up any of their individuality. Most of the tunes flow one into another, with the only real break occurring about 20 minutes after the three begin. MORE

December 10, 2001


Emanem 4059

Think of most memorable examples of British improvising over the past three decades and the front line sound that comes first to the inner ear is that of the sonic advances made by saxophonists such as Evan Parker, John Butcher and Paul Dunmall.

Aiming to redress the balance, Dublin-born Ian Smith has recorded this skillful example of BritImprov at London’s Red Rose club without a reed in sight. Besides Smith on trumpet and flugelhorn, the CD features two exceptional young brass boosters -- trombonist Gail Brand and tubaist Oren Marshall -- as well as two veteran improvisers, guitarist Derek Bailey and Veryan Weston, playing a so-called early music chamber organ. MORE

December 3, 2001


Globe Unity ’67 & ‘70
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 223 CD

Souvenirs of a time when “globe unity” meant more than the convergence of commercial or military interests, this CD of never-before-released tracks feature a small army of Euro improvisers luxuriating in the freedom promulgated by John Coltrane’s ASCENSION and The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.

Formed in late 1966, following a Berlin Jazz Festival commission for founder/pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, the Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) evolved over the years from this wild-and-wooly Energy ensemble to one that joined other European large groups in a concern for compositions. Besides, many might find that these two pieces, initially taped for German radio, more exciting than what came from the band afterwards. MORE

September 24, 2001


Close to the Kitchen
Blue Chopsticks 06

An outstanding example of pure guitar extemporization, this European dust up is a cross-generational, cross-cultural tryst as well.

On one side there's British improv elder statesman, Derek Bailey (born 1930), who practically invented the U.K. variant of free music and who continues to work with nearly every player with whom he crosses paths. In the other corner is young French guitarist Noël Akchoté (born 1968), influenced by noise bands and rockers as well a free music and who has honed his improv chops with musicians as different as Americans, saxophonist Tim Berne and trombonist George Lewis and fellow Gauls drummer Daniel Humair, reedist Louis Sclavis and bassist Joëlle Léandre. Known for his POMO band The Recyclers, Akchoté also writes for film and run the Rectangle record label, on which this session first appeared on LP in 1996. MORE

May 15, 2001


SOFA 503


Visiting Ants
SOFA 502

Those who complain about the supposed sameness of improvised music should listen closely to these two completely off the cuff sessions. Even though they were recorded less than four months apart, feature the exact same instrumentation as well as the same percussionist, only the very obtuse could confuse one for the other.

LLAER presents British guitarist Derek Bailey, the grand old man of EuroImprov trading licks with Ingar Zach, a young Norwegian percussionist. VISITING ANTS -- shouldn't the disc titles have been reversed? -- highlights duets between Zach and fellow countryman, guitarist Ivar Grydeland. MORE

June 17, 2000


Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 205 CD

One of the great, lost Euroimprov records, NIPPLES could rightly be described as a supersession. Recorded in 1969, less than a year after German saxophonist Brötzmann's seminal call to free jazz arms, MACHINE GUN, it has been out of print for almost the same amount of time. Not only does the title track feature five of the MACHINE GUNners, but it adds guitarist Bailey, who with saxophonist Parker would very soon turn away from this extroverted style to concentrate on the distinctive British "scratch and pick" style.


April 22, 2000


Potlatch P299

If any two musicians can be said to be the "fathers" of the European free jazz/improv, then the two represented on this thought-provoking session could claim the title(s).

In actuality British guitarist Bailey and American saxophonist Lacy would likely opt for the inclusion of a gang of other Continental and British improvisers, but it's they who set the standard for non-idiomatic playing and have more-or-less stayed true to it ever since.

Lacy, jazz's first modern soprano saxist had already been a valuable addition to the ensembles of leaders as individualist as Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor before a more sympathetic climate drew him to Europe in the mid-1960s. Since then, from his Paris base he has mixed and matched his talents with improvisers of every stripe, country and temperament, while never losing sight of his jazz roots. Along with such quirky experiments as creating settings for poetics and perfecting the solo saxophone recital, he's still managed to put out discs celebrating such giants as Monk, Ellington and Herbie Nichols.