Really interesting post by Simon Reynolds on improv and why he doesn't get it. I don't get it either (the music or the social scene and rhetorical fog that surrounds it), and only recently decided that I needn't feel guilty about that fact (which I have, in the past, and Reynolds' phrase "because some smart people with otherwise sharp taste are really into this shit" pretty much sums up the reason why - it's related to the peer-pressure/inferiority-complex I have suffered under in the past that's compelled me to buy Dizzee Rascal and M.I.A. albums, or to worry that maybe I should give a fuck about Vampire Weekend or the Shins or whoever, and it's only recently that I've accepted that it's my job to know stuff those people don't know, and vice versa, and that's perfectly OK). So I must extend this public warning to Reynolds, who at the end of his post writes "I have been thinking of giving that whole area another 'go.'"
Don't do it.
Don't let yourself get cultural-snob-guilted into wasting your time dicking around with non-idiomatic improv, or eai, or whatever it's called this month. The only one of the lot who's worth even a moment's consideration is Bailey, and he's best heard in duet/duel with a drummer, preferably one with some kind of jazz perspective, because then he's got to struggle with his partner's innate desire to create steady rhythm. (I would have loved to hear Bailey battle it out with Ronald Shannon Jackson.) I recommend the following Derek Bailey discs as a beginning and end point:
Daedal (Incus; with Susie Ibarra, drums)
Ore (Arrival; with Eddie Prévost, drums)
Mirakle (Tzadik; with Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass & Calvin Weston, drums)
Derek & The Ruins, Saisoro (Tzadik; with Masuda Ryuishi, bass & Tatsuya Yoshida, drums)
That's all you need. On each of these albums, Bailey is dragged out of his shell by his partner(s) and forced to actually play something approaching conventional music, but at the same time his highly individualistic style remains clear and present. You should also maybe hear him as a sideman on Peter Brötzmann's Nipples, MOre Nipples and Fuck De Boere (all Atavistic). But you could live a long and happy life without ever listening to an Evan Parker or John Butcher album all the way through. I know I have.