Monday, December 26, 2005

Sad news to report. Guitarist Derek Bailey has apparently died in London at age 75, although some reports state he died in Barcelona. Bailey began playing guitar at a young age and eventually became a professional musician playing in various conventional contexts. By the early '60s his playing began to move away from conventional forms. Initially playing contemporary jazz the trio Joseph Holbrook, which also included younger musicians Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars, eventually became one of the first groups to play what became known as free improvisation. Bailey developed what he called a non idiomatic form of playing that was unique to itself, and would go on to play with numerous musicians of various genres, as well as extensive stints of solo playing and collaborations with dancers like Japanese Butoh dancer Min Tanaka and tapdancer Will Gaines. Despite his comment about having little interest in recorded music Bailey released numerous albums in his lifetime, his last being this year's Carpal Tunnel on John Zorn's Tzadik label. He also ran the Incus label which chronicled the free improv scene, and whose fate is likely in jeopardy given his death.

Bailey's playing isn't for everyone. To many what he does sounds like random noises strung together. But for those whose ears can hear it there is melody there, just not the kind of melody you're likely to hum walking down the street on a sunny day.

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