When Derek Bailey passed away late last year, little did the world know there was a solo session of material waiting to see the light of day. Sure, people in the improvised music world were in shock and dismay. This wasn't someone who was going to be forgotten or dismissed by the populace. Derek was a real monolith, though still remaining humble about his accomplishments and many feats. When Bailey went into The Moat studio to record work that would end up on David Sylvian's "Blemish" record, there was still a ton of material remaining at the end of it all to warrant a full record. Not to mistake this for throw-away material, "To Play" [a title suggested by David Toop. Toop thought it'd be a great idea if a play was written around Bailey's playing.] is an album that is rich in emotional strive, full of commanding picking and an enormous amount of humility. Having made at least a handful of great solo guitar records [both volumes of "Solo Guitar" on Incus stand out, along with "Music and Dance", his work with dancer Min Tanaka], Bailey could easily do without yet another solo record. The very fact that it exists is important. Subtle picking patterns intermingle with utter rowdy passages of pure intensity. When Bailey plays, he means business. This isn't some sort of mood-setting exercise but a firmly delivered philosophy of life - life of a trubadour, life of an improviser in the truest sense of that word. I love to pick out single lines of melodic fervour from underneath the improvisational mayhem Bailey serves up. This really reminds us Bailey possessed a sense of the melodic in his head, even if his main love was pure improv. Playing dipped in blues, dripping with irony, drenched with a proud walk of a man whose mission on earth was accomplished.
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