Much has been discussed and said about improvisation in every form. In its search for freedom from conventional and standard forms, improvised music has gone into all kinds of directions. The results cannot be described in conventional terms, since musicians headed this direction have done everything they can to subvert and discard the principles of music theory. While free jazz, which has been associated with free improv, has often remained anchored by using licks to structure the improvised material, free improv has given more emphasis to moods and textures, rather than standard forms of rhythm, harmony or melody. In a way, it represents a culmination of these musicians' quest for total and definite freedom, and as such, it falls into a category of its own.
In the same way, Derek Bailey's music has been generally uncategorizable. It draws from myriads of genres, and his acceptance of all genres has set him outside jazz music proper. His style of expression has always been unique, and his idiosyncratic approach makes him different from guitarists who have preceeded him. The Blemish Sessions
is a collection of solo guitar performances by Bailey, specially recorded (or improvised) for David Sylvian's record Blemish
(Samadhi Sound, 2003). The title was suggested by David Toop, a longtime friend of Bailey's, and was inspired by an idea of doing a play about Bailey, within which he would have performed.
This is actually the last recording session Bailey undertook before he died on Christmas, 2005. From that session only three tracks were used in unedited form for Blemish
, and only one of those tracks is present here. Sylvian booked Bailey to provide him with material that would challenge him as a vocalist. The sounds heard from Bailey's guitar are completely atonal and arrhythmic, and his approach challenges every standardized music concept. As always, its main features are total and extreme discontinuity. The Blemish Sessions
is Bailey's swan song, and although it is a presentation of extended guitar techniques, one of its great values is that it serves as a document of one guitar virtuoso's explorations of his instrument's limitless tonal capabilities. Some may discard it as pure garbage, but it's clearly evident that Bailey put his heart into this performance.