"Historic is a very overused word in many contexts, so much so that it is devalued and I am loath to use it here. Nonetheless, it fits this release perfectly. Consider the facts: Derek Bailey and Evan Parker are without doubt the two most prolific, influential, and renowned improv players in the history of the music. They first came together at the birth of improv in the SME in 1967, together set up Incus records (along with Tony Oxley) in 1970, and continued playing together until they fell out in 1987, after which they have gone their separate ways. So this concert from Valentine's Day of 1975, at the Wigmore Hall, originally released on Incus, dates from near the middle of their twenty-odd years playing together.
This release adds over half an hour of music to the original LP release, Incus 16. The concert consisted of two halves, each including solo features which make their debuts here. In the first half Parker plays soprano sax, in the second half tenor. Bailey mainly uses his stereo guitar with two speakers controlled by volume pedals, apart from his extraordinary solo feature in the second half where he plays a modified guitar with (approximately!) nineteen strings. Because of this, many listeners will find this solo almost unrecognisable compared to modern day Bailey, but close listening reveals his usual trademarks, not least his total avoidance of clichés, licks, or anything smacking of pre-preparation. On soprano or tenor, Parker is instantly recognisable as the precursor to his modern day self.
But it is the chance to hear the two masters interacting and bouncing ideas off each other that makes this release historic; it also emphasises the sadness of that day in 1987 when they parted company, seemingly never to play together again. Our loss.
Personnel: Derek Bailey, guitar; Evan Parker, saxophones.