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Derek Bailey: Playing For Friends on 5th Street

Andrey Henkin By

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Derek Bailey
Playing For Friends on 5th Street
Straw2Gold Pictures
2004

This DVD is dedicated to the late Irving Stone and his wife Stephanie, once ubiquitous at NYC avant-garde concerts. Sadly, it can also be considered a dedication to Bailey himself, now retired due to ill health. But is also a tribute to the scene surrounding Downtown Music Gallery (DMG) and proprietors Bruce and Manny Gallanter. DMG is the closest we get here in NYC to the salons of Paris where artists, musicians and intellectuals gather in common interest and spirit. Chances are you'll meet one of the musicians Bruce recommends to you during your next visit.

This environment has also played host to countless in-store performances. Bailey's solo unamplified guitar recital from late December 2001, captured here, is a fascinating document, allowing those who wonder about Bailey's unique style a chance to see it up close. That said, it is not particularly illuminating as the mental leaps Bailey goes through on this 45 minute performance are still difficult to analyze. Making it even more surreal is the portion where Bailey describes his first job at a London music store in the '60s while continuing his fractured music as a soundtrack. To make it more than just a man playing guitar, video effects are added that, while quaint, are slightly bizarre and distracting.

Seeing Bailey like this, without the volume pedal so integral to his concept is fascinating. There are times, like with all his music, where he sounds haggard and others where he sounds brilliant. This should not be taken as a master class or instructional video though...one Derek Bailey is enough.

Produced and Directed by Robert O'Haire
51 minutes, NTSC all-region DVD


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