Born: Sep 19, 1952 in Oakland, California
Styles: Free Improvisation, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Fusion, Experimental Rock, Prog-Rock / Art, Jazz-Rock, Worldbeat, World Fusion
Guitarist Henry Kaiser is a prolific member of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene, as well as being a globally recognized leader of the "second generation" free improvisers who came of age in the '70s. His earliest musical inspiration came from the spiky sounds of English improvising guitarist Derek Bailey and the many guitarists in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band; later on Kaiser absorbed the subtle string textures of the American blues stylists and traditional music of Asia, particularly India, Korea, and Vietnam. His initial recordings documented solo projects and spontaneous groupings with other energetic improvisers like Fred Frith, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, pianist Greg Goodman, and vocalist Diamanda Galas. Kaiser's restless creativity unearthed many new and unconventional electric guitar techniques during these years, and he combined these innovations with a strong sense of logic and concise development, often aided by sophisticated sound-processing devices. During the Eighties, Kaiser projects tended toward the rock sound of the '60s and '70s, with a special fascination for the music of The Grateful Dead and particpation in a number of tribute albums for Imaginary Records. Just when people were starting to peg him as a "cover artist", Kaiser ditched his rock stylings, for the most part, and back to more of a free improvising style. He recorded albums with Derek Bailey and Jim O'Rourke, and did new recordings with his old duo-partner Fred Frith. The Nineties also saw Kaiser increase his profile through his successful collaborations with David Lindley and local musicians from both Madagascar and Norway. He was also involved with a number of recordings made in Burma, also for the Shanachie label.
The late Nineties saw another stylistic shift, when Kaiser joined forces with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for a tribute to the early Seventies sound of the electric Miles Davis bands. While only one recording has been issued so far, the project lasted for several years with a rotating lineup. In late 2001/early 2002 Henry Kaiser joined a goup of scientists for two and a half months in Antarctica, where he bacame the first musician to record an album on that continent (as yet, unreleased). Kaiser appears to be constantly busy, recording in different settings, although his release schedule is usually not as active as his recording schedule. Case in point, the release in 2003 of Guitar Party with Glenn Phillips that was actually recorded in 1990.
-Myles Boisen and Sean Westergaard (All Music Guide)