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Derek Bailey

Derek Bailey was one of the most influential and adventurous experimental guitarists to come from England (Sheffield), evolving out of the trad-jazz scene of the fifties into the avant/jazz scene in '60s London. By the late sixties he was a member of the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Music Improvisation Company which later became the amorphous Company under his leadership. These groups were at the birth and center of the British free-jazz scene. In the early seventies, Derek Bailey and Evan Parker started their own record label called Incus Records - one of the first artist-run labels. 

Although Derek played with members of the British free/jazz scene, he also forged relationships with a number of European players like Han Bennink & Peter Brötzmann, Japanese free players like Abe Kaoru, Toshinori Kondo, as well as American improvisers like Anthony Braxton, George Lewis and John Zorn to name a few. 

Derek organized an annual festival called Company Week in the 80's & 90's, which brought together a unique group of international improvisers from varied backgrounds.

"He was a man who repelled pretension, refused to be shoehorned into comfortable categories, and played amazing guitar." - John Butcher

"I do not subscribe to the idea that free improvisation began or ends with any individual. This only suggests that somehow the music Derek made was so individualistic that it failed to communicate anything beyond personal expression." - Eddie Prevost 

Featured releases

"More buried treasure from Company Week 1982: seven previously unissued Epiphanies by lineups involving Derek Bailey, Ursula Oppens, Julie Tippetts, Keith Tippett, Philipp Wachsmann, Fred Frith, George Lewis, Anne LeBaron, Motoharu Yoshizawa and Akio Suzuki. Fred Frith is a stellar improviser — 1974’s Guitar Solos is still a seminal album of free improv — and he has three opportunities here to showcase his considerable talents. Eleventh is a tour de force of extended technique, with George Lewis working slowly but surely through a variety of trombone mouthpieces, while Frith’s guitar, strummed, bowed or prepared, could be a theremin, a koto, a mouse trapped inside a grandfather clock or a lion cub inside a shoebox. Bookending the album, on Seventh he swaps Webernian shards with Lewis and harpist Anne LeBaron and on Thirteenth, with pianist Keith Tippett, he condenses a whole lifetime of musical exploration into a mere twelve minutes. When it’s over both musicians are so amazed they burst out laughing. Elsewhere, on Eighth, Wachsmann reveals his understated mastery of both his violin and the electronics he’s devised to extend its range, and pianist Ursula Oppens proves she’s as adept as conjuring forth magic from inside her instrument as she is at the keyboard. Major and minor triads too! Ninth is spikier, with Lewis quacking, spitting and wheezing like a flock of geese let loose in a fairground, while Derek Bailey and Motoharu Yoshisawa patiently explore the outer limits of acoustic guitar and double bass. Bailey and Lewis team up again on Twelfth to take on Oppens — and everybody wins. Voice is more to the fore on Tenth, with Julie Tippetts’ coloratura and flute and Akio Suzuki’s analapos and spring gong flying high, while LeBaron, Wachsmann and Yoshizawa weave intricate webs of pizzicati, spiccati and glissandi beneath."

Epiphanies VII-XIII – Company

Past events