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The Guardian - live at The Vortex

Derek Bailey & John Butcher

Some consider Derek Bailey to be the John Cage of the world's post-jazz improv scene; but he confided after this show that, at 70, he had not played a London gig in 15 months.
Yorkshire-born Bailey was making this rare reappearance at the Vortex in the company of the free-saxophonist John Butcher, but next month he goes to New York to play in Central Park alongside Cecil Taylor.
A packed Vortex was grateful for at least this fleeting glimpse. Bailey and Butcher played the first half seperately, the second together.

The Bailey/Butcher duo was like the second half of a match in which both teams had suggested sparks yet to come. Bailey began with fast, upstruck chords and scrambling runs while Butcher played whirring, wriggling tenor sax figures. When they backed off, it was initially into blearier electronic guitar effects against sonorously extended tenor sounds, then a fluidity bordering on orthodox jazz time, then a strange march from the guitar which Butcher countered with flapping noises like a newspaper caught against an open window, then with banshee hoots.
The intensity increased, Bailey's rhythmic playing becoming furiously active, a tumult of splintering-glass noises, or sounds like hammerings inside a piano-frame. Typically, this was not a conversation, in the way that the to-and-fro phrasing of a jazz jam often is. But a heated, full-on collaboration it unmistakably was

© John Fordham - The Guardian