Derek Bailey (1932-2005)
-A tribute to a man whose music i recently heard too late-
I’m not going to lie to any of you, i’m not going to posse as some big expert on the matter at hand, nothing could be further from the truth for me, in fact i’m constantly asking myself over and over again why am i trying to write this piece, i’m not sure, but i have to do it, i have to go and type something because it’s important, more important than ignorance and bigger than this. The purpose of this piece is to remember a man who has released great music and indeed changed the way we perceived it, even if it’s possible that we (and i really do mean WE, it’s all of you plus me, because franckly and on the wise words of Wayne Campbell: “I was not aware of this”) don’t know about it, we are not concious of it at all in all of our brain, yet it’s true as all the facts in history we don’t have and all the things in the world we can believe or not, but we assume exist; in this case, it’s more like the history thing, some of us didn’t see it happen, yet it happened and boy those it mark the way we live and do stuff, meaning music, the music we breathe and the music we dream, the music we eat and the music we fuck, it’s the music, man. And yet for it, we’re still ignorant and do shit about it, because that’s the way you do with music, you know shit, then time passes and you start discovering new things, new sounds, new names and new hostages, new recoveries as well as uncoverings, we do and that’s how, after ringing around the rosy for a while we stumble upon it, the pink white yellow orange truth, the truth of ourselves and the truth of unclearing your eyes after a nap, of focus and yawning to get back online at 100% and the excitement that follows, usually it’s excitement. And that’s a moment we cherish forever, yet we also curse it, because it’s when after, tumbling backwards a rock to uncover these sonic wonders we also unearth something else that can bother your very own conciousness: WHY DIDN’T I HEARD THIS BEFORE?!!, why could i be so late to the party?, i mean i had my invitation and all but i just felt like not showing up until now; in here, you can always enjoy it because the party never ends, it lives in grooves and binomial lossless data transfers; yet sometimes we miss out on the people you could have swapped knowledge or spit with. The only comfort is on the clichéd lines: better late than never.
So yes, i was late to it, and no it wasn’t for that long, in fact i just missed it for a few minutes, and that’s how the mortality game is, always by seconds, then minutes then hours then days then months, then years then decades then you lose count (not always, sometimes you dust out the abacus). Who i was late for? The same man i’m driven to write about the same way i was driven to finally giving a good, hard honest listen just hours after he died. Of course i’m talking about Derek Bailey, who passed away on December 25 05, just as i was, for the first time, enjoying his magnificent long player Ballads; just as i sat here, in this very same computer to appreciate the completely free, amorphous guitar solos the speakers were spewing when i found out online about it.
I thought it was sad, not so much for the reasons of his passing, but because it happened again, over and over what has happened before and most probably will happen again and again, over and over, i missed out on a genius while he was still getting tanked on oxygen on this very same grounds and this very same salty seas which surround ‘em, it shouldn’t be that way, it shouldn’t be that you don’t get to enjoy somebody’s heart and soul and not having them there to...i don’t know!!...you never know what to do when someone is alive and well and giving us wonderful music, you just feel more secure, i guess. Yet it shouldn’t be that way, it should be a given’take, it should be about being the closest you are to the persons responsable for great music, and having them know that you are A-ok with their stuff and that they should keep doing it, so they realize that their music is something beyond them and beyond you and beyond Beverly Hills or beyond name-your-legendary-music-holy-land. it’s fucking something else, and something else is enormous and glorious and divine, someone knows it. I guess we all do.
So Derek Bailey passed and i just heard the very first notes i could truly appreciate for the first time hours after his passing which sucks. It also means i don’t have the slightest idea of what the hell am i trying to write here, all i know is that i’m writing; i first thought about doing some thorough research on him, trying to put a nice and tidy good tribute to a man of innovation. Yet i decided to do something different that, at the same time, has more to do with Bailey himself than some retrospective: As of right now i’m listening to his album Daedal and typing this, getting the sound worked to where i could just join Derek and start giving off some of what i got, i’m improvising along with him yet my instrument is the lettered and numbered keyboard hooked to my computer so i can write this piece, no guidelines, no beats, no scales no grammatical corrections, no spell check (well, i little spell check) and no technique. Just freedom.
But first, some background is needed; you see, Derek was a pioneer in the whole sense of improvised music, in the way you can not know anything about an instrument yet feel comfortable enough to not let it intimidate you and go away with it, to whateverland or endlesspossibilityville; his approach is totally primal and instinctive, with some notes and mostly they are accidental anyway. Derek had played with everyone who’s been remotely called avant guard from John Zorn to Peter Brotzman to Ruins; he is also a huge influence in people like Sonic Youth, Wooden Wand And The Vanishing Voice, No Neck Blues Band and Sunburned Hand Of The Man, just to name a few. He had no sense of swing and no sense of bop, yet he is totally jazz in the way John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Sharrock at their most extreme and free were. He was the jazz in fact, the jazz for the beat deficient.
And so i go along to the plinks and skronks of his music to write the best tribute i can in probably the way he would most like to, just by going off, not looking back, not knowing anything just being and expressing; expressing all of which torture us or joy us and keeps us going and keep us back, back way bakc. Rises and falls to the sound of the drum rolls and the pick scrapes. Complete denial could be something, or nothing not mixed but stirred at the same time or at no time; time signature to the core seven 15ths to the left and a hundred myles away. Improvise. Improvise, keep on going, keep that bang coming, keep the strum, hold the mustard. Turn around and find something else, a harmonic perhaps or just count the tempo and name a song, go a head, you pick, pick a song, pick a chronometre. Ring it and take it away from and from us, for you to us and from here to you. It’s your choice
I hope you like it, i certainly felt better to let go.
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