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Derek Bailey / Evan Parker: The London Concert

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By Ken Waxman

The London Concert, recorded in the mid-'70s, is a historical document which preserves mature manifestations of Bailey's sound, which continues to shape British improv. The Psi reissue adds thirty-odd minutes to the previously released 1975 LP version on the Incus label, boosting its length to more than 69 minutes. Still in their honeymoon period, Bailey and Evan Parker offered both solo and duo material, with the reedman playing soprano and tenor saxophones and Bailey playing a stereo guitar with volume pedals, as well as a modified nineteen-string guitar.

Despite the hardware, there are no signs of prog rock, electronica or—as Bailey would probably insist dogmatically—jazz. That's open to debate, but what is noticeable in this context is how each of the eight tracks seems to be moderate and unhurried. There's no mistaking Bailey's plinking, slightly flattish tone and attack, whether he's using the so-called stereo guitar or the nineteen-string mutant.

"Part 1," for example, is almost fifteen minutes of constant plectrum plink and plucks intersected by masticated curt note patterns and duck squawks from Parker's soprano. As the piece develops, so do the saxophonist's jagged snaps, slurs and smears, while the guitarist's steady rhythmic guitar fills include additional vibrations. With the pedals allowing him to play an unusual vibrating pulsation, Bailey's contrapuntal display is matched by trills within the body tube, shrill pennywhistle tones and undulating columns of colored air from Parker's axe.

Seemingly mumbling to himself and evidentially concentrating on what rhythm can be constructed by stroking strings on the guitar neck, the guitarist leaves space for Parker to buzz his reed and bubble lip forms. For the finale, the reedist contorts his snarls to a legato tone, then showcases his characteristic circular breathing as Bailey plucks away.

Although thirty years later it may sound standardized, this duo performance is invested with the novelty and excitement of musical discovery, and it should attract anyone who desires a deeper insight into the musical currents of those times.

Track Listing: First half solo; Part 1; 1A; 2; 2A; Second half solos; Part 3; 4.

Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano, tenor saxophone; Derek Bailey: stereo guitar, modified nineteen-string guitar.

Title: The London Concert | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Psi

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