Bailey, Derek: Aida 2LP
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Continuing their ongoing series of reissues of music by Derek Bailey, Honest Jon's Records present a first vinyl reissue of Aida, originally released on the guitarist's own Incus label in 1980. Expanded for this release, the present version of this masterwork adds two hitherto unreleased gems recorded solo for Charles Fox's Radio 3 program Jazz in Britain, in the same few months of 1980 as the stunning original performances. The phrase "in the moment" is often bandied about with reference to free improvisation, and indeed there's no better way to describe Derek Bailey's playing. The acoustic guitar is notoriously lacking in natural reverberation -- notes barely hang in the air for a couple of seconds before they disappear -- which explains the almost non-stop flow of new material in these stellar performances. Bailey knew from one split-second to the next exactly where to find the same pitch on different strings, either as a stopped tone or a ringing harmonic, and there's never a note out of place. "He who kisses the joy as it flies," in the words of William Blake, "lives in eternity's sunrise" -- and this music is forever in the moment, constantly active but never gabby, kissing the joy. One of the special pleasures of the BBC set is the guitarist's own laconic commentary, a deliciously deadpan description of what he's doing while he's doing it. "I like to think of it -- as a kind of music" -- and the interaction between words and music is a particular delight. "You may have noticed a certain lack of variety," he quips, while unleashing a furiously complex volley. Is it a coincidence that the final seconds recall the famous cycling fifths of the coda to Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight"? Surely not; Bailey, like Monk, was a note man par excellence; they're both still alive and well in eternity's sunrise.