derek bailey

Watch this video, and if you are not familiar with the music of Derek Bailey I can almost guarantee that you will experience a 'wtf' reaction. Things start off normally enough. Some old duffer ambles in to what must be a folk club, with a typical audience of other old duffers. There's a bit of banter, he sits down, takes his guitar out of its case, and seems to be tuning up. But this goes on a bit long, and we realise that he is already playing, and then comes the wtf moment. Is this for real, or an out-take from a comedy, 'The Fast Show', perhaps? Is this guy serious?


He is deadly serious. This is Derek Bailey (1930-2005), the Sheffield-born experimental jazz guitarist. Don't imagine for a moment that Bailey simply cannot play the guitar. Early in his musical career he earned a living playing musical accompaniments for showbiz acts. He became a highly talented session musician, and played 'conventional' jazz before moving towards avant-garde 'free improvisation' and developing his unique style.

As stated on his Wikipedia entry: "For listeners unfamiliar with experimental music, Bailey's distinctive style can be initially quite difficult. Its most noticeable feature is what appears to be its extreme discontinuity, often from note to note: there may be enormous intervals between consecutive notes, and rather than aspiring to the consistency of timbre typical of most guitar-playing, Bailey interrupts it as much as possible: four consecutive notes, for instance, may be played on an open string, a fretted string, via harmonics, and using a nonstandard technique such as scraping the string with the pick or plucking below the bridge."


Bailey was an uncompromising musician, refusing totally to bow to any form of commercialism.


You may or may not like Bailey's music as much as I do, but either way it is surely impossible to deny that it is different and interesting.

©2011 The Vibe Detective


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