Derek Bailey / Frode Gjerstad

Nearly a D

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In 1992, reedman Frode Gjerstad, the legendary improvising guitarist Derek Bailey, and percussionist and trumpeter John Stevens, played a series of concerts in Norway. (One of those was recorded, the tape was lost for a decade, and then it was found and released in 2002 under the title Hello, Goodbye.) Those 1992 concerts marked the first and last time that Gjerstad and Bailey played together until Gjerstad took it upon himself, in 2002, to take a trip to London and visit Bailey in his apartment. There they recorded Nearly a D, a delightful set of duo improvisations, some of them punctuated with homey chatter ("How about a cup of tea, then?") and all of them characterized by that strange combination of thorny difficulty and gentle straightforwardness that is the hallmark of most Derek Bailey performances. The album's very long opening track is not its strongest, but when Bailey exchanges his acoustic guitar for a hollow-body electric on "Stairs," things immediately get more interesting as his range of available timbres opens up. Gjerstad is not exactly diffident around Bailey -- he plays with particular assertiveness on "Nearly a D" and the spiky "Studio" -- but they're playing on Bailey's home court and Bailey is clearly the alpha musician here. The result doesn't have quite the same richness as the Stavanger concerts of 1992, but is thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.

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