Hardbopjazz

Derek Bailey

46 posts in this topic

I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

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I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

whilst we're all trying to help identify "Frank" (sorry Bev, no idea) what do people make of Music Improvisation Company on ECM? I've often thought to track it down but never got round to it

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Might not be Frank!

Another free form British guitarist of that era!

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I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

whilst we're all trying to help identify "Frank" (sorry Bev, no idea) what do people make of Music Improvisation Company on ECM? I've often thought to track it down but never got round to it

I've got this one ECM 1005 , quite a recent purchase which hasn't fully registered other than it struck me as a difficult listen.

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I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

whilst we're all trying to help identify "Frank" (sorry Bev, no idea) what do people make of Music Improvisation Company on ECM? I've often thought to track it down but never got round to it

It's on itunes. Pleasantly creaky listen!

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I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

Frankie Douglas? e.g. with Sean Bergin? No idea if he died young or is still around however - just the 'Frank' guitarist who came to mind!

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Franky Douglas is still around, AFAIK.

As for the Music Improvisation Company LP on ECM, it's a fine one, though I might prefer the Incus a little.

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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.

Let's call it an English sense of humour/irony.

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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.

Great post: thanks for this. I would also second AH's list of recommendations. I discovered Moments Precieux (Braxton/Bailey) this summer: superb. There are some great duos with Lacy (not just the Company disc), another good duo album with Barre Philips (Figuring). In general I enjoy hearing the way the dynamic works with his duo partners, circling each other, looking for common ground, occasionally finding it, and when both players are in their zones, being a bystander to the process is a great listening pleasure. I also love the Cecil disc, and I hope at some point that later encounters with Cecil make their way onto disc...

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I've been racking my brains trying to recall the name of a British guitarist around in the 70s who played at the freer end of things. First name might have been Frank. Think he died quite young.

Recall hearing something on the radio - possibly Charles Fox's 'Jazz Today' and reading about him in the NME/Melody Maker c. 1977.

Any ideas?

Frankie Douglas? e.g. with Sean Bergin? No idea if he died young or is still around however - just the 'Frank' guitarist who came to mind!

Nope. I've been hunting through John Wickes 'Innovations in British Jazz' and the 'Simply Not Cricket' discography of UK jazz of that era and have yet to stumble.

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Frank Evans was a Bristol-based player with great guitar technique who was occasionally heard on the radio in the 1970s (I remember that Humph used to play him quite often). Very much a mainstream/modern style and nothing like Derek Bailey. Apparently George Benson sought him out when he (Benson) played the Colson Hall back then ! Back in the day, he released LPs on his own 'Blue Bag' imprint and some of these were reissued on CD by him in the 90s (I picked up one of them at the Bath CD shop, a home-made production in which the label ink smudged !)

Edited by sidewinder

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I vaguely remember the self-produced label thing - maybe that's why my brain connected it with free jazz!

For some reason he's indelibly associated in my mind with walking through the high street in Ruislip in the summer of 1977. I must have picked up a music paper and read about him there.

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Tending to always come back to Derek Bailey and to expand my collection, I was wondering if there were any favorites among the Honest Jons output of the last couple of years, especially among some of the Company sessions which weren't previously released on Incus CDs?

The only one I have picked up from them was Aida. Dart Drug is great but already have it on CD, as for some others.

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6 hours ago, OliverM said:

Tending to always come back to Derek Bailey and to expand my collection, I was wondering if there were any favorites among the Honest Jons output of the last couple of years, especially among some of the Company sessions which weren't previously released on Incus CDs?

The only one I have picked up from them was Aida. Dart Drug is great but already have it on CD, as for some others.

Solo Guitar Vol 1 is the definitive early solo Bailey in my eyes. It’s my favourite of his solo pieces along with the later Aida.

I am also interested in any recommendations on the Companys. 

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Cyro was one I'd not had before and it's a stunner.

Company 1981 I'm a little lukewarm on but the additional Epiphanies material is pretty super. 

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The big surprise for me was the one with Tony Coe, superb. 'Cyro' has been in my sights for a while now

I have a couple of the Companys, Epiphany & Epiphanies I-VI.  Both well worth the entry fee despite the first being 45rpm and having some sudden, abrupt track endings. HJ told me these were on the originals, who am I to argue. 

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yeah, I have the duo with Coe in its Incus version, which I guess is abridged. Heavy stuff indeed.

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15 hours ago, OliverM said:

Tending to always come back to Derek Bailey and to expand my collection, I was wondering if there were any favorites among the Honest Jons output of the last couple of years, especially among some of the Company sessions which weren't previously released on Incus CDs?

The only one I have picked up from them was Aida. Dart Drug is great but already have it on CD, as for some others.

I don't have any of the Honest Jon's reissues, but Aida, Dart Drug and Cyro are great ones. Not sure if they've reissued them yet, but Figuring with Barre Philips and Village Life with Louis Moholo and Thebe Lipere are great, too. Epiphany/Epiphanies is my favourite of the Company albums, though I don't like how it's now been split across different albums with different speeds. Fortunately, I have the CD and homefromtheforest's old LP.

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Figuring is indeed excellent! Thank you for all the comments. Ephiphany/Epiphanies gets on my next purchase list then as well as some others.

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I don't have Figuring. Would buy an LP if they did one. They should probably do HAN as a vinyl set also. 

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