DEREK BAILEY & COMPANY – Klinker

Confront

August 2000. When this recording was made, yours truly was still a full-time credit supervisor – destined to lose his 15-year job after a few months – who had just discovered the wonders of Google and eBay to finally score rare audio items without paying fortunes to Italy’s unprincipled vinyl peddlers. This blog would start polluting the web in the subsequent summer. However, I had already examined Derek Bailey’s Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music long before, and was quite familiar with his instrumental language (a deeper absorption of its refined nuances came later on).

Does all of the above qualify this writer to pontificate on the contents of Klinker? Of course not. As the memorable junctures of existence fade away, attempting to depict a live improvisation has gradually become coincident with the proverbial “dancing about architecture”. Ideally, one should contextualize small and big occurrences, visible and barely perceptible details, innumerable intangibles that not even the actual attendants of a given concert may have caught. That’s why many reports on the genre are often pathetic concoctions of rehashed press releases and assorted career-related commonplaces.

So let’s stick with facts. In addition to Bailey and his old reinforced-heel-and-sole cohort Will Gaines, this Company includes Simon H. Fell on double bass and Mark Wastell on cello, the musicians playing in several combinations of duo, trio and quartet. All over these two sets the atmosphere stands halfway through a family reunion and a session of erudite divertissement. Besides exploring the unknown via the gift of aural discrimination, the participants – especially Gaines – talk with the audience, exchange jokes and stories, irradiate the joy of being in a tiny venue surrounded by responsive listeners. Speaking of room dimensions, an interesting technical note (by Matt Scott) highlights recordist Tim Fletcher’s experiments with microphone positioning, in order to render the interplay’s sonic features more evident in such a restricted space. Engineering choices do make a difference; in this case, a number of significant subtleties is available to be recognized and savored by the cognoscenti.

The music is – depending on the moment – sparse, mysterious or utterly realistic. Most of all, and rather unsurprisingly in the light of the preceding considerations, it is funny. Preposterously, this is also one of the infrequent “free” albums heard in recent periods that worked as an “active headphone soundtrack” while I was reading (a boxing magazine, of all things). Once seriously focused, though, you’re going to be sucked into a vortex (pun intended). Hopefully, the reader knows how Bailey’s guitar expresses the inherent organization of an apparent anarchy; the way his swelling chords and shimmering upper partials combine with Fell and Wastell’s sagacious arcos and nimble fingers is, overall, what I actually relish herein. Gaines’ tapping – the lone genuinely percussive element – is at times a bit intrusive in the mix, although the rhythmic complexities born from the parallelisms with the other players must be studied with attention. My strictly personal preference, in a nutshell, goes to the episodes featuring diverse grouping of string instruments.

Whatever your trust in individual opinions, this document is precious for having at least a little grasp on what “performing delivered by constrictions” really means. When it comes to creative purity, Confront rarely betrays our best expectations.

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