It's not easy playing with Derek Bailey. When you're dealing with someone who has spent, at the time of this recording, about 30 years honing his highly idiosyncratic and abstruse method of musical conversation, entering the room for some "banter" must be an unnerving event. Given his numerous duo recordings, the guitarist seems to welcome the opportunity, however, and percussionist Gregg Bendian approaches the meeting with high confidence and an imaginative array of sounds. Unfortunately, he doesn't bring much to challenge Bailey, or at least is unable to move him out of his "standard" routines. Thus, veteran listeners won't find too many things to differentiate this recording from one or two dozens others. Bailey, of course, is fine to listen to in almost any context, and one has the sneaking suspicion that he sometimes doesn't particularly care who his partners are (if they're not offering much resistance, anyway) and happily proceeds to play in an accommodating manner if not an inspired one. For all its abstruseness, Bailey's work is extremely and deeply musical. When paired with an accomplice who is resourceful and talented but lacks the same degree of pure musicality, the listener's ear is unavoidably drawn back to Bailey. Things actually work for the better when Bendian abandons the more coloristic instruments and confines himself to just the drums, as on "Here, Say." While there are plenty of attractive moments here, there are few that cause one to really sit up and take notice. Given his vast output, Banter, though enjoyable, has to be classified in the "for completists only" category.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick