Han Bennink

Post Improvisation, Vol. 1: When We're Smilin'

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The liner notes to this album are a script of a phone conversation between guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer/percussionist Han Bennink. Basically, Bailey asks Bennink what he's doing, to which the drummer replies, "practicing, of course." Bailey gets the idea that Bennink should record his practice and send it to him and he will do the same, after which each man will record over what the other has done. Thus, we have this album. The basic idea sounds very simple; it is. There can be no more ideal setting for an improviser attempting to go to the heart of the matter than to do so in absentia from the musicians he's playing with on tape. Here, Bailey and Bennink had the benefit of being able to hear the other's improvisations without having to react in the immediate now, the heat of the moment. In fact, they could play the other's recordings back as many times as they wanted before putting their own tracks down. Both men play so powerfully and so intuitively that there would be no point in overdubbing, editing, or even another take. However, the dynamics here link up so seamlessly, so powerfully and intricately, that it is safe to wager a considerable sum that these men listened repeatedly to the other's tracks before setting down to improvise over them. This is still very immediate music -- knotty, tough, literally literate, and funkily unreadable as to where it will go next -- and it turns on a pin and stops and starts on a dime and eventually just bowls you over. The skittering of Bennink's brushes, incessant and maddeningly crystalline in their crazy vision, are answered straightforwardly by Bailey's muted, over-tuned high strings and rubbery under-tuned lows; he slips approximations of chords through the drumming patterns and scratches for effect as Bennink begins playing bird calls. This is modern music at its finest no matter who mailed who first.

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