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Derek Bailey & John Stevens – Playing

Beautifully recorded '92 sessions of dynamic and subtle interaction between Derek Bailey and drummer and mini-trumpeter John Stevens. 

"This lovely duet between avant guitar kingpin Derek Bailey and drummer/trumpet player John Stevens is a fine example of what Bailey was up to in the early '90s, before he discovered drum'n'bass and Bill Laswell, among other things. While the date is, as usual, completely improvised, relying more on nuance, texture, and timing than tonality, subtle timbral studies are evident, particularly in the middle of the recording on "Ping Pong" (where Bailey forgoes the electric guitar entirely and concentrates instead on the refracted timbres of an acoustic, and Stevens mutes his trumpet and plays percussion with his other hand in the exact center of spaces Bailey vacates." - Thom Jurek, All Music


John Stevens / drums, cornet, mini Trumpet

Derek Bailey / electric & acoustic guitar


Recorded August 14th, 1992 at the Watershed Studios, London, by Richie Stevens. Post production by John Hadden. Design by Karen Brookman. Artwork By [Drawing 'UIIU'] by John Stevens.

Available as 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC


1. Sometimes Dust Coup - 7:06
2. After Ending - 1:51
3. Reflecters - 5:25
4. Ping Pong - 5:25
5. D Baby - 2:50
6. Wallop - 0:44
7. 360° - 2:51
8. The Instance - 2:42
9. Playing - 15:42

Derek Bailey

Derek Bailey was one of the most influential and adventurous experimental guitarists to come from England (Sheffield), evolving out of the trad-jazz scene of the fifties into the avant/jazz scene in '60s London. By the late sixties he was a member of the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Music Improvisation Company which later became the amorphous Company under his leadership. These groups were at the birth and center of the British free-jazz scene. In the early seventies, Derek Bailey and Evan Parker started their own record label called Incus Records - one of the first artist-run labels. 

Although Derek played with members of the British free/jazz scene, he also forged relationships with a number of European players like Han Bennink & Peter Brötzmann, Japanese free players like Abe Kaoru, Toshinori Kondo, as well as American improvisers like Anthony Braxton, George Lewis and John Zorn to name a few. 

Derek organized an annual festival called Company Week in the 80's & 90's, which brought together a unique group of international improvisers from varied backgrounds.

"He was a man who repelled pretension, refused to be shoehorned into comfortable categories, and played amazing guitar." - John Butcher

"I do not subscribe to the idea that free improvisation began or ends with any individual. This only suggests that somehow the music Derek made was so individualistic that it failed to communicate anything beyond personal expression." - Eddie Prevost 

John Stevens

John William Stevens (1940 - 1994) was an English drummer and a founding member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Stevens played alongside a large number of prominent free improvisors in the SME, including Derek BaileyPeter KowaldJulie Tippetts and Robert Calvert, but from the mid-1970s, the make-up of the SME began to settle down to a regular group of Stevens, Nigel Coombes on violin, and Roger Smith on guitar. From 1983 Stevens was involved with Community Music, an organisation through which he took his form of music making to youth clubs, mental health institutions and other unusual places. Notes taken during these sessions were later turned into a book for the Open University called Search and Reflect (1985). SME played for its last time in 1994, when it included John Butcher. Stevens died later that year. Emanem boss Martin Davidson has written an appreciation of Stevens, which you can read here.