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Derek Bailey

Bailey was born in Sheffield, England. A third generation musician, he began playing the guitar at the age of ten, going on to study with John Duarte among others. As an adult he found work as a guitarist and session musician in clubs, radio, dance hall bands, and so on, playing with many performers including Gracie Fields, Bob Monkhouse and Kathy Kirby, and on television programs such as 'Opportunity Knocks'. Bailey was also part of a Sheffield based trio founded in 1963 with Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars called 'Joseph Holbrooke' (named after the composer, whose work they never actually played). Although originally performing relatively 'conventional' jazz this group became increasingly free in direction.

Bailey moved to London in 1966, frequenting the Little Theatre Club run by drummer John Stevens. Here he met many other like-minded musicians, such as saxophonist Evan Parker, trumpet player Kenny Wheeler and double bass player Dave Holland. These players often collaborated under the umbrella name of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, recording the seminal album Karyobin for Island Records in 1968. In this year Bailey also formed the Music Improvisation Company with Parker, percussionist Jamie Muir and Hugh Davies on homemade electronics, a project that continued until 1971. He was also a member of the Jazz Composers Orchestra and Iskra 1903, a trio with double bass player Barry Guy and trombone player Paul Rutherford that was named after a newspaper published by the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.

In 1970, Bailey founded the record label Incus with Tony Oxley, Evan Parker and Michael Walters. It proved influential as the first musician-owned independent label in the UK. Oxley and Walters left early on; Parker and Bailey continued as co-directors until the mid-1980s, when friction between the men led to Parker's departure. Bailey continued the label with his partner Karen Brookman until his death in 2005.

Along with a number of other musicians, Bailey was a co-founder of Musics magazine in 1975. This was described as "an impromental experivisation arts magazine"[citation needed] and circulated through a network of like-minded record shops, arguably becoming one of the most significant jazz publications of the second half of the 1970s, and instrumental in the foundation of the London Musicians Collective.

1976 saw Bailey form Company, an ever changing collection of like-minded improvisors, which at various times has included Anthony Braxton, Tristan Honsinger, Misha Mengelberg, Lol Coxhill, Fred Frith, Steve Beresford, Steve Lacy, Johnny Dyani, Leo Smith, Han Bennink, Eugene Chadbourne, Henry Kaiser, John Zorn, Buckethead and many others. Company Week, an annual week long free improvisational festival organised by Bailey, ran until 1994.

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5
Album Review

Derek Bailey / Mototeru Takagi: Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987

Read "Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987" reviewed by John Sharpe


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 ...

4
Album Review

Derek Bailey / Mototeru Takagi: Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987

Read "Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987" reviewed by Mark Corroto


To listen to Live at FarOut, Atsugi 1987 is to apply the field of evolutionary biogeography to the world of jazz. Consider the unique evolutionary paths of the creatures on the isolated Galapagos islands and you have the basics of biogeography and its study of the distribution of species and ecosystems. Then there is another type of creature, the jazz innovator. Here we have guitarist Derek Bailey (1930-2005) from England and Japanese saxophonist Mototeru Takagi (1941-2002), both residents of their ...

23
The Jazz Life

Jazz and the Rules of the Knife Fight

Read "Jazz and the Rules of the Knife Fight" reviewed by Peter Rubie


There's a great scene near the beginning of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Butch (Paul Newman) returns to the Hole in the Wall Gang and is challenged for leadership of the gang. As Butch and Harvey face off, Butch says to his enormous opponent, “Let's get the rules straight first." Harvey straightens in surprise for a moment and says, “Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!" The script then says, “Butch delivers the most aesthetically exquisite kick in ...

4
Album Review

Derek Bailey & Jamie Muir: Dart Drug

Read "Dart Drug" reviewed by Chris May


For decades as rare as hens's teeth--or should that be larks's tongues in aspic?--Dart Drug was originally released on the Incus label in 1981, and reissued on CD in 1994. In 2018 it has been remastered and rereleased on vinyl by Honest Jons. The bracing yet strangely beautiful album is one of the few recordings made by the percussionist Jamie Muir after he retired from professional music-making in 1973, first to study Buddhism in Scottish and ...

3
Album Review

Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker

Read "Klinker" reviewed by Roger Farbey


Derek Bailey and Will Gaines had already recorded together on Rappin' & Tappin' (Incus, 1994) and on the video Will (1995), so this archival session, captured live on Thursday 24 August 2000, at The Klinker in London, presents a further opportunity to hear this odd couple. Gaines was 72 at the time of this concert and the old hoofer, originally from Baltimore, had shared stages in the '50s with the likes of Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Django Reinhardt ...

1
Live Review

Derek Bailey // Three Presences at Cafe Oto

Read "Derek Bailey // Three Presences at Cafe Oto" reviewed by John Eyles


Simon H. Fell, Mark Wastell, Alex WardDerek Bailey // Three Presences Cafe OtoLondon March 2, 2018 Many people will have done a double-take upon seeing this evening in the Café Oto programme. Over twelve years after the much-loved guitarist Derek Bailey died on Christmas Day 2005, he seemed to be listed as appearing at the venue. On reading the small print, it became clear that the trio IST (bassist Simon H. Fell, cellist Mark ...

7
What is Jazz?

Craft Beer and Jazz

Read "Craft Beer and Jazz" reviewed by Thad Aerts


As I type these words, I'm sitting here sipping on an Apricot Peach Orange Whip Mimosa Gose while listening to Derek Bailey's Improvisation LP. If you aren't aware of Bailey's work, he was a British guitarist who championed the European “free" style. All improv, all the time-with no structure to speak of. Many have argued that Bailey and his angular screech and skronk have no place in anything labeled jazz, or even music for that matter. Purists. Apricot ...

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

DROPS

ICTUS
2021

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Live at FarOut,...

NoBusiness Records
2021

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Klinker

Confront Recordings
2018

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Dart Drug

Honest Jons Records
2018

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Various Brits: Just...

Ni Vu Ni Connu
2013

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