|Bailey/Metheny/Bendian/Wertico / Sign of 4, the|
Hoo boy. Pat Metheney and Derek Bailey -- each bringing their own drummers: Paul Wertico and Gregg Bendian -- in a guitar/improv summit that turns into BIG noise.|
Short summary: Abstract improv in a 3-CD set. The centerpiece is Disk 1, "A Study in Scarlet," a 62-minute monster that's LOUD, even at the slowish beginning. Awesome! although some fans of this music say it misses the point (see below).
Bailey is often cited as the father of free improv, helping pioneer an abstract, toneless form of music that became a decades-long movement, particularly in Europe. You'll find lots of this stuff on the Emanem record label in our library -- or on Bailey's own Incus label. His guitar playing is often fast and frenzied, but there's a studiousness to the process.
Metheney, as mentioned above, has grown popular playing a pretty form of modern jazz that was groundbreaking in the '70s on essential albums like "As Falls Wichita" and "American Garage." Metheney is no smooth-jazz schlockster; he's got a deep knowledge of free jazz and was heavily influenced by Ornette Coleman. Check out his "Song X" album, recorded with Coleman -- or "Zero Tolerance For Silence," which opens with four overdubbed guitars just blasting away at one blaring chord. There's a noise artist inside Pat Metheney that needs an outlet from time to time.
So, you can see why someone got the idea to pair these two up. Even better, Bailey and Metheney were only vaguely aware of one another, making for a more "pure" exchange of ideas.
On paper, it makes sense. On disk, it's gotten mixed reviews even among fans of this kind of abstract free music.
Disk 1 (track 1) was recorded Dec. 13, 1996. The criticism here is that Metheney overdoes it too early, going straight to 11 and forcing the three others to do the same. The piece does have its slower patches but never really lets up the loudness, so that Metheney's showboating obliterates the concentration and subtlety that inform Bailey's style. It's clumsy but enjoyable, especially when you think of the folks who came expecting Metheney's "nice jazz."
Disk 3 (tracks 12-16) was also recorded live at the Knit, on Dec. 13 and 14. These tracks are shorter and some have a quieter tone, wringing out more of the potential of this gathering. But it's Track 16 that finally presents, for just two 30-second blasts within its 20-minute length, the full-on white-noise blowout that the entire set hints at.
Disk 2 (tracks 2-11) is a studio session, some of it recorded before the live sets, some after.
Final judgment: Nice stuff, abrasive (in a good way) and sometimes exhiliarating. Metheney has the spirit for this kind of music but not the experience; he does tend to overdo it, particularly on louder tracks. But warm fuzzies to both guitarists for giving the project a try, and to the Knitting Factory for releasing three disks from what was certain to be a one-time gathering.