Close to the Kitchen
Blue Chopsticks 06

An outstanding example of pure guitar extemporization, this European dust up is a cross-generational, cross-cultural tryst as well.

On one side there's British improv elder statesman, Derek Bailey (born 1930), who practically invented the U.K. variant of free music and who continues to work with nearly every player with whom he crosses paths. In the other corner is young French guitarist Noël Akchoté (born 1968), influenced by noise bands and rockers as well a free music and who has honed his improv chops with musicians as different as Americans, saxophonist Tim Berne and trombonist George Lewis and fellow Gauls drummer Daniel Humair, reedist Louis Sclavis and bassist Joëlle Léandre. Known for his POMO band The Recyclers, Akchoté also writes for film and run the Rectangle record label, on which this session first appeared on LP in 1996.

Despite the nearly 40 year difference in their ages, there's no sense of a master-disciple relationship here; with Bailey there rarely is. Instead the older man gives as good as he gets on these six tracks recorded in a London studio.

In truth, with Bailey's experiments having influenced the entire guitar world, there are times when his playing and Akchoté's sound eerily similar. On "Impossible n'est pas Français", for instance, the two spend time throwing phrases, notes and finally little string scratches back and forth to make their points. If the younger guitarist creates a little melody of buzzes, then Bailey responds with what appear to be bass string burps and string fanfares. However, it's very likely that the feedback specialist on some of the tunes is Akchoté, the child of rock's excesses.

Most of the time though, you get a mental image of the two doing an aural Louis Prima and Keely Smith act. Bailey as Smith, plows along, head down, cycling through a series of tiny plectrum strokes, painstakingly constructing solos. Akchoté on the other hand is Prima, hyperactively, though metaphorically leaping around, countering the older guitarist's meticulous journey with spooky horror-movie style passages, and accelerated strums that could be introducing Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love".

Bailey remains unflappable throughout, mostly concentrating on creating ghostly, echoing intonation. However, at intervals to counter Akchoté's fluttering bird cries or what sound like space satellite signals, he'll slowly introduce straight bass guitar comping or bell-like notes or slowly bang the instrument's side with his hand. Earlier, at the beginning of "Ankara-Boulogne" both appear to be having a great time launching bursts of metallic notes into the atmosphere, before settling down to some whistling lines and wire scratchings. You could call it energy music of unfamiliar gestures.

Although his play-with-anyone ethos has meant that Bailey has produced some missteps, this masterful disc isn't one of them. Having it available on CD as well, means that more than just the cognoscenti can hear it. Listen yourself to see how two men who could literally be grandfather and grandson can, congruent to a food preparation area, create beautiful improv.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Pas la montagne! 2. Dans distribution il y a distribuer 3. Ankara-Boulogne 4. Impossible n'est pas Français 5. ça s'aime, (society of authors and...) 6. Toi et moi

Personnel: Derek Bailey, Noël Akchoté (guitars)