Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


February 9, 2019
Three Duets with Derek Bailey from Three Decades
The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House reviews three duets with Derek Bailey (January 29, 1930 - December 25, 2005), the British non-idiomatic improvisational guitarist. The first duet hails from 1979 and pairs Bailey with Tony Coe (November 29, 1934 - ) on clarinet. The album, Time was originally issued as single lp on Bailey's Incus Records in the same year. It has been reissued with a second lp of contemporaneous unreleased recordings. The second duet hails from 1982 and pairs Bailey with Cyro Baptista (December 23, 1950 - ) on percussion. The album, Cyro was originally issued as single cd on Incus Records in 1988. The 2019 reissue also includes a second lp of contemporaneous unreleased recordings. The third duet hails from 1992 and pairs Bailey with Greg Goodman (origin unknown) on piano/objets d'intérieur. This recording did not see public release until 2017, when it was issued by The Beak Doctor on lp.


Time - Derek Bailey & Tony Coe
Label: Honest Jon's Records
Catalog #: HJRLP208
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: January, 2019
Media: lpx2 entry
Sides A & B originally released on lp as INCUS 34 in 1979.
Sides C & D recorded for Charles Fox's Radio 3 programme Jazz in Britain in 1979 and previously unreleased.
Recording Information: Side A & B: April 23 & 24, 1979, Riverside Studios London; Sides C & D April 4 & May 11, 1979, BBC London.

Honest Jon's Records continues their delightful series of reissues of Derek Bailey albums, which originally appeared on Incus Records and are now long out-of-print. With several of these reissues, the original release is paired with a second lp of unreleased material, as is the case with both of the two most recent installments reviewed here.

The playing on each Derek Bailey recording is at the same time unique and immediately recognizable. Each duet in collaboration with a musical partner prompts Bailey to respond in a different way, while maintaining his own unique aesthetic. Because the music was generally inaccessible, interested listeners had been driven to find the original version of Time as digital files made by a listener from the original lp and uploaded to the internet. Still, it is a different experience to listen to album on vinyl, aside from the fact that there is an entire second album of unreleased material.

For fans of free improvisation, an album such as this is nothing less than a treasure. Bailey & Coe play with each other for nearly 90 minutes. Their musical dialogue is free of crescendo and exclamation. They prefer a rather understated manner of passing the time in an entertaining and amiable way. Before you know it, the whole album has played through.

There is a school of thought that promotes the idea that mining the historical recordings of dead musicians is morbid. The practice eliminates the spontaneous, living dynamic of improvised music. One might as well confine their listening to Beethoven, Mozart and Bach! We are apparently unable to articulate a compelling argument to refute this point of view. At the same time, we have already listened to this album several times and, each time, it has improved the quality of our day.

The website of Honest Jon's Records is spectacularly unreliable. It cannot be reached at least half the time. If you are able to access it, they have posted some nice notes on both recent reissues, which are worth investigating.


Cyro - Derek Bailey & Cyro Baptista
Label: Honest Jon's Records
Catalog #: HJRLP207
Country: United Kingdom
Release Date: January, 2019
Media: lpx2 entry
Sides A & B originally released on lp as INCUS CD 01 in 1988.
Sides C & D from same recording session and previously unreleased.
Recording Information: October 1982, New York City

Once upon a time, there were a pair of recordings featuring the duet of Derek Bailey and Cyro Baptista. The first, Cyro, was recorded in 1982 and issued by Bailey's Incus Records in 1988. The second, Derek, was recorded in 2003 and issued posthumously (in Bailey's case) in 2006 on Amulet Records. Because the latter was much more readily accessible than the former, those listeners who desired to investigate the collaboration between the two musicians were, for the most part, limited to the latter recording. With the reissue of the former, that asymmetry is now remedied.

Incus released a number of guitar/percussion duets pairing Bailey with various drummers, including Ingar Zach, Susie Ibarra (twice), Han Bennink (several times) and many others. Improvisational percussionists are, in general, a wily lot, capable of imposing their individual spirit on an instrument, which in the hands of others, might simply keep an anonymous rhythm. The duet with Cyro Baptista is no exception. The idea of using percussion to keep a particular tempo appears never to have crossed Baptista's mind, at least not in this setting.

The two lps run in total about 76 minutes. Baptista shifts rapidly through a wide range percussion instruments while Bailey keeps to a single guitar. For the curious, while the entirety of the recording is taken from the same recording session, it is not obvious what distinguished those pieces that were selected for the original release from those that make up the second lp of previously unreleased material. We enjoyed all four sides of this album.

Honest Jon's Records is making the world a better place with this series of reissues. We sincerely hope that these records garner sufficient interest to merit additional reissues.


Extracting Fish-Bones From The Back Of The Despoiler - Derek Bailey & Greg Goodman
Label: The Beak Doctor
Catalog #: BD10
Country: United States
Release Date: November, 2017
Media: lp entry
Sides A & B previously unreleased.
Recording Information: live performance, September 12, 1992, Eugene, Oregon

This third duet is the only one in the trio to be previously unreleased in its entirety. It also was released a little more than a year ago, though somehow the staff of the PPPH, fond as they are of Derek Bailey in particular and non-idiomatic improvisation in general, remained ignorant of it until recently. Unlike the other two recordings reviewed above, it is a single lp issued by The Beak Doctor.

Derek Bailey plays the electric guitar for this performance with Greg Goodman who performs on what is colloquially known as the "unprepared piano". Wikipedia, the oracle of all contemporary knowledge, declares, "A prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects on or between the strings." Of course, a listener may be intensely interested to know what advanced techniques are employed in unpreparing a piano. While no explanation is forthcoming in the liner notes, the music provides its own explanation.

If one wonders why the world at large did not pause to take notice of the emergence of this record after a rather protracted delay of a quarter century from its date of recording, we can only offer the consolation that failure to generate mainstream public appeal is its own badge of honor and reflects the intrinsic value in the artistic purity of an act performed without regard for critical acclaim or financial reward. That one, such as Bailey persisted in the endeavor until the end of his life, provides a role model for the many who, though less bold, find modest acts of non-idiomatic improvisation to bring bright moments of disruption to an otherwise well-ordered life.



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