Derek Bailey never ceases to stupefy. Just when it seems he’s exhausted all improvisational avenues he boldly steps out again and unveils a new sphere of music upon which to inflict his maddeningly original technique. There are antecedents to this trio’s work. The skull-crushing fragmentary funk of Arcana, a short-lived collective Bailey fronted with Bill Laswell and the late, great Tony Williams is a kindred spirit. But whereas that earlier group emphasized a full bore aural assault and oppressively dense waves of kinetic force this current cooperative possesses a far greater dynamic range. As an earlier compendium of Tacuma’s work once contended, he is indeed the Boss of the electric bass and his command of the nuances of his instrument echo Bailey’s own intense familiarity with string theory. Weston’s understanding of the timbres and textures available from his drum kit are similarly advanced. Tacuma and Weston share a further connection through their long history together spent playing in Philadelphia-based groups. What this ultimately means is three formidable improvisers willing to leap into the deep end from the high board even without assurance that there’s water in the pool.
On the surface their meeting mirrors the action of a boxing match with Bailey on one side of the ring, and Tacuma and Weston on the other struggling to maintain a groove despite the hail of sonic jabs and punches that spray forth from the guitarist’s serrated strings. Just as s soon as the Philly contingent manages to wrest free an solid fatback funk riff, Bailey moves in again and shreds it with a razor-wire web of guitar static. After the initial shock of hearing these three scuffle subsides deeper listening reveals that their interplay isn’t some free-for-all after all, but a highly charged swirling pool of spontaneously harnessed energy. Each man is actively and attentively responding to his partners and rather than being two immovable objects that collide in a cataclysmic impact the factions instead strike a supportive alliance. Bailey’s guitar rockets forward while Tacuma and Weston carve out a malleable underpinning to fuel his velocity.
In the first piece alone the trio cycles through an astounding series of improvisational exchanges. Tacuma and Weston have a limitless supply of undulating beats at their disposal and toss out one after another for Bailey to pulverize with devilish enthusiasm. Across the remaining tracks the three rip apart the boundaries of funk at the seams and create a document guaranteed to elicit in equal parts perplexed wonder and riotous admiration. It’s an exhausting ride, but one that yields incredible exhilaration, and the most startling thing of all is that it’s all completely improvised! To borrow a catch phrase from the ESP label that seems strangely appropriate here: “You Never Heard Such Sounds In Your Life.”
Tracks:Moment/ What It Is/ This Time/ Nebeula/ Present/ S’Now.
Players:Derek Bailey- electric guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma- electric bass; Calvin Weston- drums.
Recorded: November 29, 1999 at Orange Music.
Tzadik on the web: http://www.tzadik.com