(Samadhi Sound)

The title could perfectly summarize the essence of Derek Bailey’s music. No prescriptions, no gimmicks, nothing more than his playing – and I’m certainly not the one who will repeat here how influential the man has been. To Play was recorded in 2003 during David Sylvian’s Blemish sessions; it’s a scintillating proof of how Bailey – 73 at that time – could still teach plenty. The recording quality of these improvisations – six acoustic, two “electric” sounding like “enhanced acoustic” – is magnificent, capturing the guitarist’s nimble fingers on their way to the most shrouded areas of the fretboard (were there any for him?) in search of sparkling harmonics, percussive snaps, fine altered chords and rasgueado-on-the-neck entangled visions. The resulting music manifests crystal-clear counter virtuosity, a torrential flow of vibrations which to this day remains vividly unethical in a positive sense, hardly rivalled – mostly by Bailey’s alumni – and still capable of bringing a guitarist to turn the CD player off, raise from the couch, take the instrument off the case and look for new reasons to love it. If Derek Bailey is still a perfect stranger to your record collection, this could very well represent an excellent starting point.

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