Derek Bailey (1930-2005)
was born in Sheffield into a family of musicians. He gained his first professional experience as a session musician with mainstream singers, including Gracie Fields. Bailey was already experimenting with free playing by the time he moved to London and joined the collective that grew around drummer John Stevens‘ Little Theatre Club sessions in the late 1960s.
Here he met and worked with Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Holland who collectively recorded ‘Karyobin’ as the 1968 incarnation of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Bailey was able to record prolifically from 1970 with the formation of the musician-owned label Incus, along with Parker and drummer Tony Oxley. Recordings with Anthony Braxton, Gavin Bryars, John Zorn, Pat Metheny, and tap dancer Will Gaines reflect his open mind and rewarding but challenging approach to free improvisation and an exploration of the guitar.
Bailey was instrumental in the formation of the free improvising collective, Company, in 1976, which drew in international figures from Avant Garde jazz like Americans Steve Lacy, John Zorn, Fred Frith and Leo Smith, as well as Europeans like Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink.
Bailey wrote and presented a 1992 series for Channel 4, ‘On The Edge’, which was based on his book ‘Improvisation – Its Nature And Practice In Music’ (1980). He recorded prolifically throughout his career, including shortly before his death ‘Carpal Tunnel’ – an album that charted his experience of relearning to play the guitar in the face of the syndrome which had begun to plague his playing.