Agustí Fernández and Derek Bailey

Barcelona

(Hopscotch HOP 10)

Recorded on a Spanish sojourn by Bailey, these eight duets pair the guitarist with mercurial Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández, a conversation between cool and heated improvisational approaches that elicits some captivating music. “Senyor Parellada”, the 15-minute opener, is a dazzlingly vigorous display from the pianist, who often garnishes his instrument’s strings with rattling preparations; Bailey sorts through the commotion with unflappable efficiency, picking and choosing what to respond to as if he were weeding through an overfull inbox. “7 Portes”, by contrast, has an intriguingly restricted canvas, the pianist working variations for almost nine minutes on the kind of hammy minor-key tremolo that serves as bad-guy music in a western.  The disc’s setpiece is “Casa Leopoldo,” a 23-minute improvisation which opens with pachinko-parlour richochets from the interior of Fernández’s piano, scrupulously annotated by Bailey. This quickly turns out to be a mere prelude to the main business of the track: the volume drops and the players turn to skritchy restless-mice sounds. Bailey goes about his business in characteristic don’t-mind-me fashion; Fernández drags things around inside the piano, which every so often issues a small protest. The pianist changes tack at the quarter-hour mark: now more Tilbury than Taylor, he uses the pedal to suspend fine-boned lyric fragments in the air. As the piece pushes over the 20-minute mark there’s no sign of entropy or flagging, but here as on other tracks Fernández shows a preference for an emphatically marked ending, interpolating an explicit let’s-wrap-things-up formula into the performance. Bailey doesn’t fight it but doesn’t quite go along with it either, preferring instead simply to let the music come to a rest.

Nate Dorward

Coda, Sep/Oct 2003

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