In 2002 Bailey released one of his most unusual CDs, Ballads (Tzadik), a solo performance with him freely improvising on standards. This is a second installment, though this recording actually precedes Ballads. Liner notes by Karen Brookman-Bailey and John Zorn recall Christmas 2001: The BaileysDerek in New York to pick up a "new guitarinvited Zorn and Ikue Mori to their suite for dinner. During the evening, Bailey took out the vintage Epiphone Emperor (an oversized acoustic archtop designed for big band rhythm playing without amplification) and started to play classic pop tunes. As Brookman-Bailey points out, we might locate the songs in the guitar itself or in Bailey's early years in dance bands. A few days later, Bailey went into a New York studio and recorded Standards, later repeating the process in London for Ballads.
This is unquestionably the edgier of the two sets, with less attention paid to the melodies. The performances reverse expectationsthey begin in seemingly random improvisation, gradually taking on harmonic and rhythmic patterns until they end in melodic paraphrases of a standard, never exactly the standard, but the kind of approximation with which Lennie Tristano might begin.
The history of free improvisation, in which Bailey played a central part, seems to be running backward. The music is fantastic. Few improvisers ever acquire Bailey's knack for generating random sequences that resemble chance scores and each performance inquires into the instrument's specific resources, its extraordinary resonance (deliberately suggesting koto), its sustained high harmonics, or even a worn fret, worried (like a prepared piano) for a specific multiphonic boink. It's as if Bailey disappears into the instrument's specific history, its overtones and echoes, its wear, promise and woody memories. Standards is an important part of Bailey's great legacy.
Track Listing: Nothing New; Frankly My Dear I Donít Give a Damn; When Your Liver Has Gone; Please Send Me Sweet Chariot; Donít Talk About Me; Pentup Serenade; Head.
I met Erroll Garner at The Theatrical Grill in Cleveland a few hours before our family was to see him on stage at Severance Hall. That was 45 years ago and I was only 15! I spotted him nearby in a booth wearing a beautiful tux with a great white napkin draped over him! I was a little nervous as I approached him (he was eating shrimp cocktail) and said, Mr
I met Erroll Garner at The Theatrical Grill in Cleveland a few hours before our family was to see him on stage at Severance Hall. That was 45 years ago and I was only 15! I spotted him nearby in a booth wearing a beautiful tux with a great white napkin draped over him! I was a little nervous as I approached him (he was eating shrimp cocktail) and said, Mr. Garner, I love playing the piano... is there any advice you could give me?'' He hesitated, then looked back at me and said, Keep playin' and don't stop!'' That was great advice because at 60 years old, I'm still playin' and haven't stopped!