May is Derek Bailey memorial month at The Stone. It's fitting, then, that these Joseph Holbrooke recordings emerge now, as we mourn the fact that Bailey isn't physically with us anymore. The notes indicate that he was involved in the choice of material up to the end, happy that it was finally going to be released after years of delays. This double-disc set doesn't deserve a review; rather, it deserves a treatise, a close analysis of every moment, because each instant is blazing with such telepathy, energy and wit that only such treatment would really do the set justice.
Documentation of this legendary '60s trio was scarce. Apart from a ten-minute rehearsal extract from 1965, a forty-minute reunion concert from 1998 was released on the Incus label. The present sessions, recorded at London's Moat Studio soon after the concert, are more gratifying and stunningly effective. A moment then: Take the opening of "Campo, which perfectly exemplifies the lightning-flash brilliance of this veteran assemblage. Bailey snaps into action, followed hot on his heels by Gavin Bryars (bass) as they play something that morphs from a C-dominant chord to a gorgeously swelling D-Major, Bailey's harmonics in glorious effect. The two keep a motivic dialogue going until Bailey strikes four chords in rhythm, Tony Oxley cymbal-riveting perfectly on the fourth one. Two notes from Bryars and all recedes just for a moment, during which the group breathes and then it's off again...
What to say? Venturing that all manner of sound is here, from the subtlest near-silence to exploding roars, is still saying nothing. The fact that Bailey's use of distortion here seems more integrated in the overall texture than in the concert recording is such a minor point that it hardly warrants mentioning. Each player has achieved so much during the group's 33-year hiatus, sacrificing nothing. John Zorn deserves thanks for bringing this material out so quickly and so well, the package supplemented by funny, informative and touching notes by Bryars and Bailey that mirror the multifaceted music itself.
With the promise of more to be released, it's fitting to celebrate this important and powerful document from a group that defined everything to follow in its wake.
Personnel: Derek Bailey: guitars; Gavin Bryars: bass; Tony Oxley: percussion.