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Derek Bailey

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Posted

Last week WKCR did an artists profile on Derek Bailey. I listened to the three hour program. The program played a number of pieces by his group "Company." What am I missing? I really was not impressed with his playing on any of these recordings. Nothing against free jazz or Derek Bailey. I do go and listen to free jazz live and do like it, but I didn't find anything innovative in the music played on the WKCR program. Anyone have some suggestions of what I should give a listen too from him? His long career and playing with so many great musicians leads me to believe he merits a second listen.

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Posted

"Ballads" - if that doesn't hook you... he's got one of the most beautiful guitar sounds I've ever heard!

q64812jrd5c.jpg

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Posted

Yeah, for me solo Bailey or in duo settings is where it's at.

I also like his sideman turns with Peter Brotzmann and Tony Oxley in the late '60s/early 70s. He really makes The Baptised Traveller something special.

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Posted (edited)

Two good early ones I'd suggest, Karyobin by Spontaneous Music Ensemble ( not sure of its availabilty) and Evan Parker's Topography of Lungs (available Psi records).

btw. Company was less a group than a variety of groupings. Bailey annually invited/curated a wide variety of experimenters to come together and play in a variety of combinations. Many of these recorded on Incus.

Edited by mjazzg

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Posted

"Ballads" - if that doesn't hook you... he's got one of the most beautiful guitar sounds I've ever heard!

q64812jrd5c.jpg

another :tup :tup for Ballads , also on Tzadik is Standards, I had a harder time getting my head around The Sign of 4 with Pat Metheny (need to re-listen)

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Posted

Bailey solo is to me amongst the very starkest beauty ever to be found in art.

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Posted

I love many of Bailey's records, it seems cruel to recommend so many which are out of print. Of the Tzadik's (which are always in print, I think), Ballads and Derek and the Ruins are pretty cool. I prefer extreme isolation and headphones w/ solo Bailey, it's a heavenly place.

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Posted

Since this thread was "inspired" by hearing some pieces by Bailey's Company, I'll go on record as being a Company fan, at least to an extent. I love the idea - bring together musicians from different backgrounds (including those with little or no experience in improvisation), put them together in different combinations, and see what happens. It doesn't always work, but when it does it can be surprising, beautiful, or at least interesting. As I write this I've got "EP/LS/DB" from Company 6 & 7 playing, and it's pretty cool. Evan Parker, Leo Smith, and Derek Bailey are all traveling in the same general direction, but taking different routes to get there, and Bailey's path is sometimes pretty far removed from the others.

I don't have a ton of Company recordings - three CDs and a couple of LPs - but all of them have some stunning music, as well as some tracks that wear out their welcome before the end. I particularly like Once, from the 1987 Company week; Lee Konitz is on board, and it's very cool to hear him playing with Bailey. Knowing his attitudes, he probably thought it was interesting bullshit, but to me it works.

Keep in mind that this is not "free jazz" per se - it's free improvisation without genre. It seldom has the forward-moving energy of free jazz; it's more abstract, and even more "in the moment." What Company did well was put accomplished musicians into unexpected improvisational situations; the results were mixed, but sometimes remarkable.

By the way, if anyone has a copy of the Fables LP by Company you'd be willing to part with, please let me know.

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Posted

Two good early ones I'd suggest, Karyobin by Spontaneous Music Ensemble ( not sure of its availabilty) and Evan Parker's Topography of Lungs (available Psi records).

Karyobin is OOP on CD and fetches a hefty price these days. I don't think Emanem were able to get the rights from Island to reissue it so the old Chronoscope disc (am told that wasn't legit, but...) is about all there is (short of paying a mint for a battered original LP, which seems to be par for the course vinyl-wise). Too bad it's so hard to find because it's one of the great SME documents, for sure.

I'm with Jeff on the Company stuff - sometimes brilliant, sometimes boring but always of value.

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Posted

Two good early ones I'd suggest, Karyobin by Spontaneous Music Ensemble ( not sure of its availabilty) and Evan Parker's Topography of Lungs (available Psi records).

Karyobin is OOP on CD and fetches a hefty price these days.

Now that I didn't realise. Too good to part with

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Posted

I like the material with Iskra 1903 - Bailey with Paul Rutherford and Barry Guy - especially the 3 CD set on Emanem, 'Volume One'.

Some titles are hard to find - many in fact. I like early stuff myself whether solo or group - stuff with Brotzmann and/or Bennink and/or Parker. There's a lot of variety in later stuff. Lots of titles in print still.

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Posted

"Ballads" is a wonderful album. I also love this funky groover:

"Mirakle" with bassist Jamaaldeen Tacuma and drummer Calvin G. Weston.

51nYExnoPnL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

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Posted

Big fan here!!

I think you really need to separate between his solo material & collaborations

He's recorded with such a wide range of musicians (not just jazz/imrov)

Favourite solo material - Incus recordings -> one of his best are the "incus taps" reel recordings from the early 70's.

He released four of these short 10 minute tapes - were custom made as people wanted them & are rare as hens teeth now.

The Cortical Foundation released this material on CD in the 90's (now oop) but has done an LP reissue that comes with a CDr

of the same material. Any of his Incus or Emanem solo recordings are recommended.

Another element of his solo material are the rambling or succinct discourses between & during playing - always puts a smile

on my face.

Interesting collaborative efforts are LAST WAVE (Arcana - DIW)a trio with Bill Laswell & Tony Williams, GUITAR, DRUMS 'N BASS

(Avant) with DJ Ninj. ISKRA 1903 is essential IMHO, especially the 3CD set on Emanem (trio with Paul Rutherford & Barry Guy)

as are virtually all of the Company recordings.

Duos with Evan Parker - ARCH DUO (Rastascan), LONDON CONCERT (Incus/PSI), TOPOGRAPHY OF THE LUNGS (trio with EP & Han Bennink

on Incus/PSI) - even one with Anthony Braxton in 1974 (LONDON CONCERT - Emanem).

The larger groups eg Globe Unity Orchestra & London Jazz Composers Orchestra are also highly recommended.

He's an aquired taste but well worth the try

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Posted

Yeah, I'd agree that Ballads would be a good way in, especially from the 'jazz' direction...Mirakle likewise, in a slightly different way...

Somewhere, there are recordings of Konitz sitting in with Joseph Holbrooke (Derek/Oxley/Gavin Bryars) from the mid-60s...pretty interesting...

Company could certainly get pretty out...is it on '91 where there's Buckethead alongside Alex Kolkowski?

If you're into Steve Lacy, another way in could be the early Company duos, or through Derek on a few of the Saravah recordings.

Bailey/Braxton is another great one. (On a vaguely related note - I would have loved to have heard him with Roscoe - I don't know if that ever happened?)

One personal favourite very rarely commented upon is 'Village Live' on Incus - Derek with both Louis Moholo and Thebe Lipere on percussion - very beautiful...really makes me wonder what he would have sounded like sitting in with the Art Ensemble.

And also: let's not forget the *completely* remarkable duo with Cecil Taylor from Berlin...an astonishing dynamic - listening to them figure each other out during the opening half hour or so is uttrley compelling IMHO.

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Posted

Somewhere, there are recordings of Konitz sitting in with Joseph Holbrooke (Derek/Oxley/Gavin Bryars) from the mid-60s...pretty interesting...

Why was that trio called Joseph Holbrooke? I've read it was named after the British composer. Can't see a connection as all I've heard from him is late 19thC romanticism - Wagnerian tone poems etc. Seems an odd hero.

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Posted

Somewhere, there are recordings of Konitz sitting in with Joseph Holbrooke (Derek/Oxley/Gavin Bryars) from the mid-60s...pretty interesting...

Why was that trio called Joseph Holbrooke? I've read it was named after the British composer. Can't see a connection as all I've heard from him is late 19thC romanticism - Wagnerian tone poems etc. Seems an odd hero.

Footnote in Derek Bailey's Improvisation: "The group's name came from Tony Oxley although it could quite easily have come from Gavin Bryars who at the time was beginning to show what was to become a lasting interest in early 20th century English music. Joseph (sometimes Josef) Holbrooke, once described as the 'cockney Wagner', was a composer of prodigious output who, although creating something of a stir in his own lifetime has been almost totally ignored since. Investigations about him produced different dates for his birth (1875 or 1878) and different dates for his death (1958 or 1961) raising the consideration that there might be more than one Joseph Holbrooke, a speculation reinforced by the staggering amount of music published under that name. It seemed like a good cover for our activities."

The early Holbrooke w/Kontiz has circulated in the blogosphere. My first impressions (upon last listen) were that the non-Kontizi sounded like fine jazz backing but, ultimately, only intermittently inspired. It's foolish to formulate any sort of sweeping statements on the merit of a single dusty recording, but my instinct told/tells me that Derek was an intelligent but only technically "good" jazz guitarist.

On the other hand, I can say with some certainty that Bailey was a motherfucker in his own idiom--in a way analogous to, but quite different from, Ayler's virtuosity (I remember Jim calling Ayler a "freakin' virtuoso saxophonist" a while back, and the words continue to ring in my ears). There are certain elements of his technique that are baldly primitive--specifically all the pick scraping and pitchless slurs/seemingly chaotic muting, which is akin to the dubbed tracks on all those "shreds" videos--but other parts point to a very, very sophisticated musical mind (or rather, a mind that is so sophisticated that it has unraveled much of the technical straightjacketing that jazz guitar is heir to).

For one thing, Derek was a monster with harmonics. His integration of harmonics into streams of pure tones is unparalleled in terms of clarity and sheer variety. He was like a swiss army knife of harmonics--truly mind-boggling. On a similar level, his early use of distortion and feedback (which he seemed to eschew, for the most part, in later years) was really innovative--check out Topography of the Lungs, which is one of my desert island discs. I always thought that Topography could pass as a modern indie improv album (i.e., something Thurston Moore or something the guys from Don Caballero would do on an off day)--excepting the fact that Evan Parker is clearly the technical better in the late-60's/early-70's of most any contemporary new music saxophonist and that Bailey is so staggeringly creative with such a minimal setup. I think that Bailey's only real "rivals" (though that's an inherently stupid concept) in terms of sheer control, invention, and versatility of modern techniques are Fred Frith and Keith Rowe (guys like Takayanagi and Sharrock are ultimately pitch and distortion/feedback players, although they're the best at what they do--and Ulmer is just his own weird thing, really)--the rest of us are just learning this stuff secondhand.

Here's the other thing, and this really shines on Bailey's "later" work (later is an obscure term, but I mark it where Bailey transitions into semi-hollow playing with a greater emphasis on pitch and pure tones--like mid-80's or so)--Bailey is the best atonal melodist in all of free guitar, and one of the best improvisers in this realm, period. Cecil isn't really atonal, but it isn't really a stretch to say that Derek's solo work operates at Cecil's caliber. Derek's whole deal with non-idiomatic playing always struck me as subtractive in nature, having to do with clearing the mind and playing without deliberate style. That being said, it's extremely difficult to chord atonally on guitar (pick up a guitar and try it, doubters of the world--it will just sound like muted, plinky noise when an unpracticed musician does it), but maybe because Derek had the jazz training--and, moreover, because he retained some of the finger/wrist facility while unlearning the jazz guitarist's requisite voicing autopilot--he developed a truly "free" voice. Also, the man's energy was astounding--listen to the concentrated creative energy of Bailey on Aida, the sheer breadth of his ideas--it's overwhelming. He truly was the Cecil Taylor of the guitar, in respects.

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Posted

I always thought the "Joseph Holbrooke" name was kind of a joke or subtle dig, but I could be wrong (and probably am).

Thanks for elucidating on Bailey's atonality. You're right - truly atonal improvising on the guitar is very rare, it seems, and especially done with as much liveliness as Bailey does it. It's funny that someone like Joe Morris used to be called "Bailey-esque" - he's not, because he doesn't play atonally. Most people wouldn't recognize that.

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Posted

Very interesting post, epistrophy - thanks!

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As Jeffcrom rightly states, Bailey was not a jazz guitarist (although he started out as one) but a non-idiomatic improviser. It's best to listen to any of his solo works first. It's also easier to appreciate if you are a guitarist, then you can marvel at just what he doesn't play. His ability not to include any cliched licks or pretty much anything similar to anything recognisable other than his own playing is amazing. And yet, listening to the tonal colour and use of shimmering harmonics makes it easier to understand why he is so highly regarded. He was most definitely a remarkable innovator. It's a bit strange that Bailey was allied to jazz music when out of all his recording colleagues, only a handful could never be described as jazzers, most at least played jazz either for a living or because their technical skills were so high they were persuaded to play jazz. So for example on Karyobin, Bailey was the only musician on the LP who never played "straight" jazz, ever in his career. Even "Ballads" which I also highly recommend, is not "straight" jazz. But it is fascinating.

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Posted

As Jeffcrom rightly states, Bailey was not a jazz guitarist (although he started out as one) but a non-idiomatic improviser. It's best to listen to any of his solo works first. It's also easier to appreciate if you are a guitarist, then you can marvel at just what he doesn't play. His ability not to include any cliched licks or pretty much anything similar to anything recognisable other than his own playing is amazing. And yet, listening to the tonal colour and use of shimmering harmonics makes it easier to understand why he is so highly regarded. He was most definitely a remarkable innovator. It's a bit strange that Bailey was allied to jazz music when out of all his recording colleagues, only a handful could never be described as jazzers, most at least played jazz either for a living or because their technical skills were so high they were persuaded to play jazz. So for example on Karyobin, Bailey was the only musician on the LP who never played "straight" jazz, ever in his career. Even "Ballads" which I also highly recommend, is not "straight" jazz. But it is fascinating.

But Bailey did play straight jazz early on. Improvisation states that Joseph Holbrooke originally played in the mode of the LaFaro/Motian Evans trio, and the early (bootleg) recordings with Konitz are in a straightahead vein. I totally agree that Bailey's music transcends the notion and trappings of jazz, and I do think he reached that level of technical escape velocity where he was no longer defining himself in terms of not playing "in" (and there's also ample documentation of his interest in the Second Viennese School concurrent to his jazz years--so it's not as if he was necessarily "all about jazz" at any given point)--it's just a less well documented (or, ultimately, less relevant) part of the puzzle that Bailey did start out connected to the jazz tradition.

(BTW, cheers folks--it's time for that time honored tradition known as "going to teach so I can pay my bills"--it reminds me of this time that Fred Frith told me that Derek had "made a lot of sacrifices" to get to where he was, and I'd imagine the easy life of jazz education was one of those things)

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Posted (edited)

But Bailey did play straight jazz early on. Improvisation states that Joseph Holbrooke originally played in the mode of the LaFaro/Motian Evans trio, and the early (bootleg) recordings with Konitz are in a straightahead vein. I totally agree that Bailey's music transcends the notion and trappings of jazz, and I do think he reached that level of technical escape velocity where he was no longer defining himself in terms of not playing "in" (and there's also ample documentation of his interest in the Second Viennese School concurrent to his jazz years--so it's not as if he was necessarily "all about jazz" at any given point)--it's just a less well documented (or, ultimately, less relevant) part of the puzzle that Bailey did start out connected to the jazz tradition.

To qualify what I wrote earlier, Bailey never played straight jazz (in public) or on record from around 1968 or earlier (Joseph Holbrooke '65 - "Miles Mode") until he recorded "Ballads" (2002). This is why "Ballads" was greeted with such amazement, as no one ever thought they would hear this from him. Nevertheless, "Ballads" was his way of playing "straight" yet still remaining faithful to his non-idiomatic "style". Also I should add that he was, I believe, the only musician listed in the 1960s and 1970s Melody Maker jazz polls - British section who didn't "occasionally revert" to playing straight jazz professionally for nearly 40 years. For example, Tony Oxley was a key figure on the improv scene (and still is) but played occasionally in straight settings - the astonishing quality of which was almost unmatched in the UK hence his postion for many years as the number one British drummer in the same MM jazz polls.

Odd though that Derek Bailey was associated so often with jazz and yet he eschewed this genre, although he certainly did listen to it. Although not strictly playing any type of jazz it was possible to discern in his playing, tonal colour and attack which certainly echoed some elements of jazz guitar sounds - he often played a Gibson ES175 (compare the tone of McLaughlin's semi acoustic guitar on "Things we like". Or any Sonny Sharrock. In no way was Bailey a copyist, but there is a definite although involuntary (subliminal?) "jazz-ness" to his music. I am thankful that I managed to catch him playing live several times. His performances were both electrifying (even when playing acoustically) and jaw-dropping. It's not an exaggeration to say that, truly, his like will not be heard again. RIP Derek.

ps check this historic You Tube vid out for a glimse of the master at work Derek Bailey solo guitar

Edited by RogerF

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Posted

Joseph Holbrooke was an estimable composer; naming the trio that might be as much refutation as homage to his formalism but then Holbrooke himself gets chided for alleged formal transgressions (compared to what, Bach?) so who knows. It's likely both.

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al.asp?al=CDA67127

most everyone except George Lewis (trombone) completists can live without the Company recordings BUT... the Company Week etc project has greater social-artistic significance than the mostly footnote-worthy musical results.

Mo' Holbrooke, chamber this time--

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CHSZrGXgB0

Two good early ones I'd suggest, Karyobin by Spontaneous Music Ensemble ( not sure of its availabilty) and Evan Parker's Topography of Lungs (available Psi records).

Karyobin is OOP on CD and fetches a hefty price these days. I don't think Emanem were able to get the rights from Island to reissue it so the old Chronoscope disc (am told that wasn't legit, but...) is about all there is (short of paying a mint for a battered original LP, which seems to be par for the course vinyl-wise). Too bad it's so hard to find because it's one of the great SME documents, for sure.

I'm with Jeff on the Company stuff - sometimes brilliant, sometimes boring but always of value.

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Posted

From the replies, there's a lot for me to check out from Bailey.

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Footnote in Derek Bailey's Improvisation: "The group's name came from Tony Oxley although it could quite easily have come from Gavin Bryars who at the time was beginning to show what was to become a lasting interest in early 20th century English music. Joseph (sometimes Josef) Holbrooke, once described as the 'cockney Wagner', was a composer of prodigious output who, although creating something of a stir in his own lifetime has been almost totally ignored since. Investigations about him produced different dates for his birth (1875 or 1878) and different dates for his death (1958 or 1961) raising the consideration that there might be more than one Joseph Holbrooke, a speculation reinforced by the staggering amount of music published under that name. It seemed like a good cover for our activities."

Thanks for that clarification.

I always thought the "Joseph Holbrooke" name was kind of a joke or subtle dig, but I could be wrong (and probably am).

Well, given how unlike Holbrooke's music Bailey's is (I've never heard that trio but doubt there is much connection), it seems quite likely. But I'm not sure why they'd take a dig at a composer few people had heard of; and whose music even fewer would have heard.

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Posted

Somewhere, there are recordings of Konitz sitting in with Joseph Holbrooke (Derek/Oxley/Gavin Bryars) from the mid-60s...pretty interesting...

Why was that trio called Joseph Holbrooke? I've read it was named after the British composer. Can't see a connection as all I've heard from him is late 19thC romanticism - Wagnerian tone poems etc. Seems an odd hero.

Footnote in Derek Bailey's Improvisation: "The group's name came from Tony Oxley although it could quite easily have come from Gavin Bryars who at the time was beginning to show what was to become a lasting interest in early 20th century English music. Joseph (sometimes Josef) Holbrooke, once described as the 'cockney Wagner', was a composer of prodigious output who, although creating something of a stir in his own lifetime has been almost totally ignored since. Investigations about him produced different dates for his birth (1875 or 1878) and different dates for his death (1958 or 1961) raising the consideration that there might be more than one Joseph Holbrooke, a speculation reinforced by the staggering amount of music published under that name. It seemed like a good cover for our activities."

The early Holbrooke w/Kontiz has circulated in the blogosphere. My first impressions (upon last listen) were that the non-Kontizi sounded like fine jazz backing but, ultimately, only intermittently inspired. It's foolish to formulate any sort of sweeping statements on the merit of a single dusty recording, but my instinct told/tells me that Derek was an intelligent but only technically "good" jazz guitarist.

On the other hand, I can say with some certainty that Bailey was a motherfucker in his own idiom--in a way analogous to, but quite different from, Ayler's virtuosity (I remember Jim calling Ayler a "freakin' virtuoso saxophonist" a while back, and the words continue to ring in my ears). There are certain elements of his technique that are baldly primitive--specifically all the pick scraping and pitchless slurs/seemingly chaotic muting, which is akin to the dubbed tracks on all those "shreds" videos--but other parts point to a very, very sophisticated musical mind (or rather, a mind that is so sophisticated that it has unraveled much of the technical straightjacketing that jazz guitar is heir to).

For one thing, Derek was a monster with harmonics. His integration of harmonics into streams of pure tones is unparalleled in terms of clarity and sheer variety. He was like a swiss army knife of harmonics--truly mind-boggling. On a similar level, his early use of distortion and feedback (which he seemed to eschew, for the most part, in later years) was really innovative--check out Topography of the Lungs, which is one of my desert island discs. I always thought that Topography could pass as a modern indie improv album (i.e., something Thurston Moore or something the guys from Don Caballero would do on an off day)--excepting the fact that Evan Parker is clearly the technical better in the late-60's/early-70's of most any contemporary new music saxophonist and that Bailey is so staggeringly creative with such a minimal setup. I think that Bailey's only real "rivals" (though that's an inherently stupid concept) in terms of sheer control, invention, and versatility of modern techniques are Fred Frith and Keith Rowe (guys like Takayanagi and Sharrock are ultimately pitch and distortion/feedback players, although they're the best at what they do--and Ulmer is just his own weird thing, really)--the rest of us are just learning this stuff secondhand.

Here's the other thing, and this really shines on Bailey's "later" work (later is an obscure term, but I mark it where Bailey transitions into semi-hollow playing with a greater emphasis on pitch and pure tones--like mid-80's or so)--Bailey is the best atonal melodist in all of free guitar, and one of the best improvisers in this realm, period. Cecil isn't really atonal, but it isn't really a stretch to say that Derek's solo work operates at Cecil's caliber. Derek's whole deal with non-idiomatic playing always struck me as subtractive in nature, having to do with clearing the mind and playing without deliberate style. That being said, it's extremely difficult to chord atonally on guitar (pick up a guitar and try it, doubters of the world--it will just sound like muted, plinky noise when an unpracticed musician does it), but maybe because Derek had the jazz training--and, moreover, because he retained some of the finger/wrist facility while unlearning the jazz guitarist's requisite voicing autopilot--he developed a truly "free" voice. Also, the man's energy was astounding--listen to the concentrated creative energy of Bailey on Aida, the sheer breadth of his ideas--it's overwhelming. He truly was the Cecil Taylor of the guitar, in respects.

I heartily agree that "Topography" qualifies as a desert island disk. When I fist heard it (in 1974 or so?) it introduced me to an entire new world of improvisation. That may have been the first time I realized that anyone had moved into a realm beyond those explored by Coltrane. As my listening expanded over the years, "Topography" remained a reference point, a kind of standard against which to measure other works.

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