Derek Bailey

Soshin

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Derek Bailey accumulates collaborations, always eager to discourse with young improvisers through his guitar. Some of his choices may be disputable, but he sure had his ears in the right place when he stumbled upon Antoine Berthiaume. The Montreal guitarist was only 24 years old when he recorded a string of improvised duets with the British master at the latter's home. Part of this session came out on Bailey's Visitors Book, while two more pieces (13 minutes of music) end up on Soshin. "Seize the day" the saying goes, so when Fred Frith made a rare visit to Montreal in December 2002, Berthiaume dragged him into the studio to record three inspired duets. The disc begins with the title piece, a multi-tracked solo number where Berthiaume explores delicate sonic textures. An interesting piece, earthlier than Oren Ambarchi's forays into similar territory, it feels a bit out of place on this collection -- a prologue of sorts. Of the duets with Frith, "Wolf's Wood" is the keeper. Here a true dialogue remains open throughout the duration of the piece -- and Frith displays a fresh imagination instead of relying on his trusty bag of tricks. Berthiaume's surgical playing is a marvel to follow. "Morning Froth," on the other hand, doesn't rise above Frith's average output from the same period. It seems that Bailey will always be Bailey: challenging and frantic in his playing and yet opening up to welcome the input of his young friend. Pushing your own voice across between those two key figures of improvised guitar is no easy task and maybe Berthiaume would have been better-served by a first album featuring lesser musicians. But if you are lured to Soshin by either of its big names, you might be surprised to find out that, in the end, the star player is not who you thought.

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