Aida, consisting of two live recordings from 1980, captures Derek Bailey on the cusp between his early-career thorny and more drastic explorations of the outer limits of guitar playing and the subtler, softer (though no less idiosyncratic) approaches he would often employ later on. Throughout his career, Bailey has championed what he calls "non-idiomatic improvisation," an attempt to improvise without reference to any pre-existing musical styles. While perhaps impossible to achieve 100 percent, he has certainly made it difficult to describe his work with the normal allusions and comparisons to that of others. The first track on Aida, "Paris," is a gorgeous and relatively smooth excursion in Bailey's sound-world. One imagines that if England had a tradition of koto accompaniment for Noh plays, it might sound something like this. Not that there is an overt Asian influence, but the sparseness and careful choice of notes gives one a slight sense of both Eastern asceticism and luxury within that asceticism.
Though he has professed to not particularly enjoying solo playing, that circumstance is often the easiest introduction to Bailey's work. Aida is a remarkably beautiful entry to one of the world's masterful musicians. Indeed, he sounds like no one else.