Review Summary: Eat your heart out, signed...
It can be said that the late Derek Bailey played according to his own rules on what defined 'proper' musicianship; in his fervent plucking and in his bizarrely atonal strides across the fretboard, Bailey defied the previously-known conventions of guitar music as one of the forefathers of modern improvisational music. Influenced by the likes of jazz guitarists such as Charlie Christian and Oscar Moore, as well as composer Anton Webern, Bailey originally took after Webern's style of tightly-knit compositions, which in due time, would also become a defining part of Bailey's repertoire as a free improv guitarist later on in his career. Studying his works intently, Bailey would break away from strictly composed music in favor of spontaneous free-form works, which would often find the guitarist hitting one of his many creative strides, although this was not always the case throughout his career. Concerning his works' consistency and quality, you can find several of his records to be among the best of the free improv scene, or amidst the lesser inclusions in the Derek Bailey canon, although Bailey certainly was not quite in his element in the confines of the studio as he was in a live setting -- which brings us to Aida.
is perhaps Bailey's defining work, the album that can be seen not only as his greatest achievement but also as one of his most accessible records as well, although this second statement is definitely moreso up to personal opinion than to an actual consensus. Bailey often timed his live improvisations to pace himself accordingly as to not let the moment slip away nor linger longer than he would deem necessary, as heard on the side-long cut "Paris." There's a genius to Bailey in a live setting that couldn't ever be captured in the studio, as "Paris" shows, in which Bailey ventures into this lengthy improvisation that is not bound to the co-operation of a collaborator or to the expectations of the audience, but instead held in this greatly condensed form thanks to Bailey setting a watch to inevitably cut his sprawling tangent short. Aida's
second-half double feature of "Niigata Snow" and "An Echo in Another's Mind" both don't necessarily reach the same astonishing standard that "Paris" does, but cement Bailey's legitimacy as one of the masters of improvisational music in such a convincing way that it found me delving through a great deal of his back catalogue over a number of weeks to a point of where it was all I listened to. For how hideous his playing may sound at times, Bailey's style has this wonderful lack of pretense that makes his records, Aida
especially, greatly refreshing to listen to.