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Pieces for Guitar

Derek Bailey

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Album Review

What an unexpected treasure trove this turned out to be! Derek Bailey's earliest extant recordings, all solo guitar, none previously heard. Although still very much under the influence of Webern, Bailey was already committed to the idea of non-idiomatic free improvisation, even if he arguably hadn't quite achieved that goal by this time. Compared to his work from only a couple of years later, these pieces are considerably more on the melodic and jazz-tinged end of things (he even comes close to quoting Monk!), although even so, they certainly would have gotten him unceremoniously removed from most stages in 1966-1967. Aside from their inherent beauty as stand-alone works, part of the fascination of this disc is the way certain pieces clearly anticipate avant-garde rock trends of the next several years. For instance, "G.E.B.," which opens the album, sounds very much akin to Don Van Vliet's delicate instrumental tracks like "Peon" and "One Red Rose That I Mean." Similarly, the closing improvisations bear a marked similarity to Robert Fripp's sparse, spatially aware playing on "Moonchild" from the first King Crimson album. But the nascent abstract and almost insectival aspect that Bailey fans would come to know and love is surely present as well on gnarly, knotty works like "Bits," which also incorporates early explorations into the use of feedback. And "Practising: Wow & Stereo" would still cause the hackles to rise on the necks of the great majority of jazz fans, lo, these 35 years hence. Pieces for Guitar is an invaluable artifact in the archeology of free improvised music and a must for any fans of the genre. Highly recommended.

Biography

Born: 29 January 1930 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

At first glance, Derek Bailey possesses almost none of the qualities one expects from a jazz musician — his music does not swing in any appreciable way, it lacks a discernible sense of blues feeling — yet there's a strong connection between his amelodic, arhythmic, atonal, uncategorizable, free-improvisatory style, and much free jazz of the post-Coltrane era. His music draws upon a vast array of resources, including indeterminany, rock & roll, and various world musics. Indeed, this...
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