Derek Bailey, Mick Beck, Paul Hession
Meanwhile, Back In Sheffield…
Discus 21CD
Available formats: CD/DL


“Still unsettles, still challenges, still demands careful listening, the ghost of a mordant smil still flickers behind his (Bailey’s) interventions…..with partners as powerful as Beck and Hession” – Barry Withernden, Jazz Review

Bailey captured live in his home town during a 2004 tour with two fine and sympathetic collaborators.

Derek Bailey – electric guitar
Mick Beck – tenor saxophone, bassoon, whistles
Paul Hession – drumset

A live recording of ‘non idiomatic’ Derek Bailey’s first gig for several years in his home town. In August 2004 at the invitation of the formidable musical partners Mick Beck and Paul Hession, Derek Bailey returned to his geographical roots, Sheffield, for a couple of gigs there, and in Leeds. Bailey now lives most of the time in Barcelona, and sometimes likes to get away from the heat of its summer. His trip to Yorkshire met this criterion. Sheffield’s meteorological response was dramatic – cold, and so much rain that it necessitated buckets under a few drips. Possible onomatopoeic resonances from the openings of tracks two and three can be detected. Fortunately, the Red Deer pub was just round the corner. Bailey’s mainly reflective performance is complemented by Hession’s rhythmically grounded but always creative manipulations of a more or less conventional drum kit, and Beck’s energising explorations with the unusual mediaeval bassoon, along with authoritative tenor sax, and various inquisitive whistles. The three tracks, only slightly edited from an excellent recording by Chris Trent, present the majority of the concert, which was supported by Sheffield’s Other Music and staged in the hall of Sheffield Royal Society of the Blind (a public venue used for a variety of musical occasions). Despite the rain, and the stageing of the gig in the holiday season, there was a good audience, whose responses we wish to acknowledge but not to include on the disc.

POSTCRIPT December 2005

Sad to lose Derek Bailey – Mick Beck comments (reprinted from JazzTalk interview). It was sad news, tinged with relief that Derek Bailey was released from the closing stages of motor-neurone disease, to hear of his death on Xmas Eve 2005. Many will acknowledge his musical genius and originality in the coming months. I recall my first encounter with his playing back in the early 1970s (Iskra 1903 I think) as a member of the audience. At the interval Barry Guy must have seen I was quite shocked, and asked “What did you think of that then?” I don’t know what I said, but my use of the word “encounter” cross-refers to elements of challenge, confrontation. I was not new to free jazz – idolized Dolphy and the exploratory Rollins, Bobby Hutchison to name but a few, but Derek was an order of magnitude different. His style was much more of a challenge to jazz itself, to tonality, the guitar, his audiences. The techniques and musical interventions, which he honed for so many years overtly and covertly shaped much of the free music that was generated in the latter part of the 20th century. From 1980 I became involved in the free music scene as a player, and moved in the UK from London to Sheffield. For these two reasons, I got to know Derek, who also came from that town and would visit for musical and family reasons. We had several collaborations in the 1980s, then sporadic contact in the 1990s. In the last 3 years or so, the drummer Paul Hession and I have been working as a duo, and with other musicians from the UK and other countries. We invited Derek to join us in 2004 for a couple of gigs in Sheffield and Leeds (Paul’s home town), out of which emerged the CD “Meanwhile, back in Sheffield …”. Performing with him then was just as much a challenge as 20 years before. I think he’d take that as a compliment. On the one hand I felt he would do his own thing almost in spite of whatever else was going on. But when stimulated to genuine interaction, the outputs could be very powerful – witness phrases like “raucous jostles”, “passing hot coals from one to another” appearing in press reviews, and echoing my own strong personal reaction described above, one of my young musical colleagues who came to the Sheffield gig said “It was one of the most influential gigs I’ve ever been to” – the magic was still very much there. Paul and I were very pleased to play with him and generate the CD; his leaving the mortal coil sharpens those feelings.

21CD - Derek Bailey, Mick Beck, Paul Hession


“Derek Bailey can’t put a foot wrong these days, but he’s often only as interesting as those he chooses to work with. Back home in Sheffield, he found himself with two of the most sympathetic collaborators he or we could wish for” – Brian Morton, Wire

“The three players trade phrases as if hurling a hot coal back and forth” – John Fordham, Guardian

“Still unsettles, still challenges, still demands careful listening, the ghost of a mordant smil still flickers behind his (Bailey’s) interventions…..with partners as powerful as Beck and Hession” – Barry Withernden, Jazz Review

“Beck’s spluttering tenor engages in a comfortable 50 minute dialogue” – Stewart Lee, Sunday Times

“Loaded with contrasts and rhythmically diverse articulations. Essential listening for Bailey’s legion of admirers.” – Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

“MEANWHILE, BACK IN SHEFFIELD captures on disc a now-uncommon occurrence: the first live gig in a decade by that British city’s best-known native improviser: guitarist Derek Bailey, now a Barcelona-resident. He’s joined by local Mick Beck on tenor saxophone, whistles and bassoon, and drummer Paul Hession from Leeds. Both men have played individually with Bailey, but never recorded with him in this formation. Recorded live – but with audience applause excised – the barely 53 minute MEANWHILE, BACK IN SHEFFIELD reproduces the concert exactly as it evolved. Bailey’s hyper-distinctive guitar phrasing is such that while Beck sometimes screams and squeals through both horns, and Hession unleashes fierce cross-handed textures, the fretman guides the improvisations. Oh course, whether this happens through tacit musical agreement, the force of Bailey’s personality or the others’ deference to an elder is open to interpretation. Showpiece track is “After The Red Deer”, the nearly-33-minute opening salvo. Beginning with bird-whistle chirps from Beck and understates flams from Hession, it gains its shape from Bailey’s distinctive strums and string swipes. Soon the saxophonist’s sparrow peeps swell to crow-like caws as he tops off the body tube with glottal punctuation and tongue-fluttering. With the drummer limiting himself to nerve beats and wooden concussions, the guitarist’s irregular patterns, scraping pulsation and quaking reverb match Beck’s spacious tone expelling, finally diminishing to trilling obbligatos from the reedist and claw-hammer picking from the guitarist. Asserting himself, Bailey chromatically works his way across his strings and frets, goading Hession to follow suit with snare press rolls, cymbal slaps and drumstick-across-the-metal squeaks. Beck’s response in the improvisation’s penultimate minutes is to bring out his bassoon, showcasing basso quivers, and side-slipping sonority. Diminishing his own contribution to a dewy mist of spiky notes, the guitarist presages the ending with highly rhythmic chording. Both other, shorter instant compositions feature more of the same, with Bailey and Hession sticking to spanked and tapped single note textures. Meanwhile Beck consolidates his sound, at one point spraying a wailing melody with one horn as he simultaneously peeps penny-whistle decoration. As a maximalist, his solos often consumes the entire sonic space.” – Ken Waxman, JazzWord

“This is one of those “musician’s dream” free for all improvisational free jazz sessions including an electric guitar, drums, tenor sax, bassoon, and interesting bells and whistles. It’s more music in spirit than in form, but that’s the magic of free-form. Something that wouldn’t necessarily be music because of its random nature often takes on a brand new life when it is surrounded by other wonderful sounds. In this case, I love what these three guys did. I hear some of the most fruitful experimentation just pouring out of what they play, what they don’t play, and what they create together by not playing together. There’s your subject, now discuss….” – Neo-zine

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