Derek Bailey/John Butcher/Gino Robair – Scrutables (Weight Of Wax)


This recording pulls together three of the more notorious names in free improvisation, Derek Bailey (guitar), John Butcher (saxophone) and Gino Robair (energised surfaces – read: Percussion). This recording dates back from a session in 2000, and while it was originally slated to be released on the Acta label, it wasn’t, and became one of many recordings to feature the late Derek Bailey that was lost in time until now. There is a risk that a recording from ten years ago might feel dated by contemporary standards, especially in the world of free sound jazz-influenced improvisation. Ultimately it’s a testament to the strength of the performers that a recording from 2000 still feels contemporary in 2012.

The recording veers between the chaotic and the sublimely beautiful. These recordings are all about the trio, three individuals reacting to one another’s most subtle musical movements in surprising and inventive ways. Sometimes this reaction sees the trio join together to create something homogeneous, where the sources of the sounds are difficult to pinpoint, such as the beautiful ‘Cosmetic Halo’. Sometimes this sees the trio distancing themselves from one another, with each member chattering away in their own musical language, an approach exemplified in ‘Teasing Needles’. Yet the trio always works in a musically literate way, propelling each track on a strange journey to the extremes of music.

Ultimately, passive listeners will catalogue this recording as just another sequence of weird noises created by Derek Bailey and John Butcher. Which, in a way, perhaps it is. Both artists are prolific and so there is always a risk that a surface glance will write-off new additions to their catalogue as more of the same. Similarly, proponents of more traditional jazz are unlikely to flock to this recording. All of this is a pity, because as music these recordings are energetic and full of purpose while remaining highly focused and above all: musical, which gives the album a timeless feel. For listeners eager to hear sound-based improvisation with a real emphasis on composition and structure, Scrutables captures just that.

Sam Gillies


About Author