Thanks to its licensing deal with the Japanese Chap Chap label, the Lithuanian NoBusiness imprint continues its exposure of unexpected gems from the Japanese free scene of the 1980s and 1990s. While many feature solely native improvisers, others pair local performers with Western visitors. Live At Far Out, Atsugi 1987
falls into the latter camp, presenting British guitarist Derek Bailey
during one of his regular visits to the country, in duet with saxophonist Mototeru Takagi
. Sadly, both men have since died, Takagi in 2002 and Bailey three years later. To modern ears, Bailey's iconoclastic guitar style no longer shocks as it once did, having been assimilated by so many outward-leaning practitioners, but neither is he an easy listen.
Although Bailey was a fervent believer in expanding his circle of collaborators, he had connected with the reedman previously, as evidenced by a track on Duo & Trio Improvisation
(Kitty, 1978). As he told writer John Corbett: "I do like to play with new people. If you're working in this field, freely improvised music, it's one of the sources of replenishment." What Bailey found in Takagi was an imaginative and like-minded spirit, one not overly ego-driven, who possessed the skills and desire to extract unusual timbres from his instrument, which coincided with his own. The reedman suppresses his fire-breathing tendencies, taking a controlled approach to overblowing and multiphonics. He even recalls the straight horn expression of Steve Lacy
in his near melodic reworkings on occasion.
Indeed, the result is not as left field as the venue name might imply. At times there's an extraordinary austere beauty to the confluence of sounds they produce, especially on the near half hour "Duo I." While Bailey remains resolutely non-idiomatic, there's a hint of something lyrical tantalizingly just out of reach amid his abstraction, as his stream of ringing notes and carefully sculpted feedback sustains contrast with Takagi's gently probing soprano in the spacious opening segment. Further proof of close listening comes in the empathetic pacing: when Takagi launches a cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof staccato prance, Bailey responds with a jangling cascade similarly zigzagging to and fro along the fretboard. But there are limits and Bailey stays determinedly non-committal when the piece ends with Takagi outlining the refrain of "Blue Monk."
Although mostly a collective endeavor, Bailey plays the first 12-minutes of "Duo II" unaccompanied, this time without amplification, creating a dry and wiry ambience. But when in consort, speed and density wax and wane in tandem, even on "Duo IV" where the prickly interaction and more extreme textures might suggest parallel courses. At over 70-minutes the disc provides an exhaustive survey of their compatibility, which at best as on the opener, speaks to a palpable bond.
Duo l; Duo ll; Duo lll; Duo lV.