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.

Bailey, a former dance band and studio guitarist found his salvation first in so-called free jazz, then very quickly contributed to the gestalt that birthed the British branch of Euroimprov. An organizer of the Company, improv free-for-alls, Bailey will play with nearly any musician who walks through the door. And since the late 1960s that has included everyone from traditional American jazzers and "serious" composers to interpretive dancers and metallic noise bands.

Yet no matter what goes on around him, the playing of Bailey —who insists that every musical moment be improvised — remains unequivocally the same. The non-idiomatic plinks plunks and single-note scratches he gets from his instrument aren't compromised whether his partner is Pat Metheny or DJ Soulslinger.

That's what makes this 1983 Paris session so valuable. For among the hundreds of discs Bailey and Lacy have collectively recorded, very few have been in one another's company. Be warned, though, this isn't a standard duet. Instead it's the creation of two simultaneous soloists whose conception is so convincing that the adventurous listener's ear can follow one or the other without disorientation.

Overall, the five listed tracks dissolve one into another. During OUTCOME's more than the more than 60 minutes, Lacy can be thorny, squeaky and sour for a time, then dulcet and breathy. Meanwhile Bailey's notes resonate as he alternately strums, picks and slides. Sometimes one or the other drops out for a section.

If bare bones improv is your passion, search high and low for this session. If you're less sure of that taste, but be would like to experience the work of uncompromising modern masters first hand give this CD a try as well. The outcome may be different from what you imagine.

-Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Input #1 2. Input #2 3. Input #3 4. Input #4 5. Input #5

Personnel: Derek Bailey (guitar); Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone)