WTF?! Wednesdays: Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, “Improvisation #2” (1985)

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To the statement that “Nobody sounds like Derek Bailey” comes the snarky reply, “Just who the hell would want to sound like Derek Bailey?!” Mr. Bailey really did create his own genre. While there are many players who are immersed in completely improvised music, Derek Bailey’s idiosyncratic tone and approach set him apart. I’ll admit that I didn’t “get” him for a long while, but that didn’t stop me from listening. The ringing tones, harsh plucks, plinks, chord rakes, and dynamic shifts seemed random. But that couldn’t be true, could it?

Intellectually, I knew that Bailey had to have some sort of framework. His book Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice cemented that idea. Those sounds didn’t just show up by whim, even if the delivery made it seem so.

So here we have Bailey with the great saxophonist Evan Parker. A key element in this segment is the ability of both musicians to just listen. Bailey will play an interval, which suggests an opening for Parker, who then leaps by an octave…inducing a dissonant chord from Bailey. It’s a kind of conversation. For all of its chaos, you can see the ideas and inspiration being passed back and forth like a baton.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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