Derek Bailey (born January 29, 1932) is a free improvising avant garde guitarist.
Bailey was born in Sheffield, England. He played the guitar from an early age, studying with John Duarte among others. He found work as a guitarist in clubs, radio, dance halls, and so on. He began to play in a trio in Sheffield with Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars called Joseph Holbrooke. At first they played quite traditional jazz, but became more and more free in direction. In 1966, Bailey moved to London where he met many like-minded musicians, including Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, John Stevens, Barry Guy and Dave Holland, occasionally collaborating under the umbrella name of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (or the SME as they tended to be known). In 1970 Bailey founded the record label Incus with Tony Oxley and Evan Parker, often said to be the first independent label owned by musicians.
In 1976 Bailey formed Company, an ever changing collection of like-minded improvisors, which has at various times included Anthony Braxton, Tristan Honsinger, Misha Mengelberg, Lol Coxhill, Fred Frith, Steve Beresford, Steve Lacy, Johnny Dyani, Leo Smith, Han Bennink and many others. In 1980, he wrote the book Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice. This was adapted by UK's Channel Four into a four part TV series in the early nineties, edited and narrated by Bailey .
For listeners unfamiliar with experimental musics, Bailey's distinctive playing style can be difficult to relate to. He treats the guitar as a source of a far wider range of sounds than are usually heard. He often plays on the body of the guitar rather than the strings, for example, and has tied the guitar in chains to provide an extra source of sound. He plays both amplified and acoustic instruments, and can produce the most delicate tinkles as well as the most fierce noise. Some of the techniques he employs have been compared to John Cage's use of the prepared piano. Bailey himself however claims that his approach to music making is actually far more orthodox than performers such as Keith Rowe of improvising collective AMM, who treats the guitar purely as a 'sound source' rather than as a musical instrument.
Eschewing labels such as 'jazz', Bailey prefers to describe the music he plays as 'non-idiomatic', and has collaborated with other musicians as diverse as Pat Metheny, John Zorn, Will Gaines, David Sylvian, John Stevens, Drum 'n' Bass DJ Ninj, and Japanese punk group Ruins.
Karyobin (with the SME, Island records, 1968)
The London Concert (with Evan Parker, Incus, 1971)
Solo Guitar Volume 1 (Incus, recorded 1971, reissued 1992)
Solo Guitar Volume 2 (Incus, 1972)
Company 6 & 7 (other players on this re-issue originally recorded at the 1977 Company Week include Lol Coxhill, Han Bennink, Leo Smith, Tristan Honsinger, Steve Beresford, Anthony Braxton and others, Incus 1992)
Yankees (with John Zorn and George Lewis, recorded 1983; issued variously on Celluloid and Charly)
Lace (solo guitar, Emanem, recorded 1989)
Village Life (with Thebe Lipere and Louis Moholo, Incus 1992)
Playing (with John Stevens, Incus 1992)
Guitar, Drums and Bass (with DJ Ninj, Avant records, 1996)
The Sign Of Four (with Pat Metheny, Gregg Bendian, Paul Wertico, Knitting Factory, 1997)