Archive for Derek Bailey

EARS WIDE OPEN #3

Posted in Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Guy Segers, Keith Richards, Rova Saxophone Quartet, The Residents, Univers Zero, Victo Festival with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by candymachine

 I used to subscribe to an on-line subscription site called ‘Rock’s Back Pages.’ It endeavors to make available (eventually) all articles published in rock music magazines since the dawn of time (or at least since the  70s). In addition to the articles, they also make available a hefty number of taped interviews with all manner of rock music notables. I listened to a lot of the interviews, which I found of some interest, and remember one in particular that was conducted with Sir Mick Jagger, (long before he became a Sir). This took place in the early or mid 70s, before Prog Music fell into disfavour with establishment critics, and the interviewer was probing Jagger on his knowledge of the day’s current crop of music heavyweights. The tone of the questioning suggested that perhaps the interviewer thought that the Stones had become yesterday’s news placed against the new Prog rock caped crusaders. In particular, the interviewer asked Jagger if he knew of the band Yes. This was followed by asking him if he knew who the keyboardist in Yes was. To which Jagger responded, rather incredulously, that of course he knew who the keyboardist of Yes was. Jagger displayed his indignation quite nicely by not actually naming the musician in question, which would have thereby condoned the line of questioning. (It was Rick Wakeman at the time, if anyone cares).

 I remember this exchange vividly because it’s an illuminating example of something that drives me crazy. Namely, there is a widespread assumption that because a musician or band releases records which occupy a particular place on the musical spectrum, they are probably not interested in, or may know nothing about, any music that goes on elsewhere in the musical spectrum. Jagger admitted that he was not very interested in Yes, and that his interests were elsewhere, but the suggestion that he would be unaware of them is, frankly, ridiculous. I don’t know if Keith Richards enjoys the guitar work of Fred Frith or Derek Bailey, but I’m quite certain that he’s at least familiar with their playing. I would wager that he at least finds it of interest. Richards is well known as a vast repository of knowledge of the Blues tradition, in all it’s variations, but I’m sure he has sought out anyone who approaches the guitar in a new way.

 Why should we think otherwise?  Large swaths of the general listening public may seek out cozy cubby holes to listen in, hardly straying from the familiar and known, but musicians are generally speaking cut from a different cloth. I recently came across a brief note in a popular music magazine, possibly Uncut or Mojo, reporting that Alicia Keys (of all people!) had come across some old Emerson, Lake & Palmer material (of all people!) and thought that Keith Emerson was positively wild and that she thought she might like to implement something of that into her own work. The fact that it showed up in the magazine in the way that it did suggests that the very notion that these two worlds would cross paths is newsworthy enough to report. The fact, however, that Alicia Keys would find something interesting enough in Emerson to draw from just shows that the borderlines dividing those worlds are less of a concern for musicians.

 I’ve been a frequent concert-goer at the Victo festival (Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville) since 1989. One of my fondest memories from Victo dates to the Univers Zero performance back in 1997. The group had left the stage after an encore and the chant went up for another. After a few moments, the band returned to the stage, and with them came the Rova Saxophone Quartet. “It’s a surprise, even for us,” said bass player Guy Segers. It was indelibly etched into my mind not because the music they ended up performing together was particularly brilliant, but rather because of the juxtaposition with abandon of these two seemingly disparate musical animals. Brilliant!

 Remember the classic era Residents performing with Conway Twitty on David Sanborn’s Night Music TV show? Those were the days, or could be one day.