'During March 1986, Han Bennink, the Dutch master drummer, and I played a short tour of England - eight concerts in seven days. Of the many times we have played together over the past twenty years or so, this was probably my favourite bout. Four of the concerts were recorded and this disc is a compilation of five excerpts from these concerts. There is no attempt to disguise the edits but the music is presented as two continuous pieces - the way we usually play a concert.' Derek Bailey.
Track 1 consists of three recordings made by members of the audience at three concerts, by Eddie Klak at Essex University, by Chris Atton at The Carmarthen, Leeds and by Michael Gerson at the Soho Poly Theatre, London.
Track 2 was recorded by Michael Gerson at Bethnal Green Music Library, London.
All the recordings were made between 15-22 March, 1986.
All Music Guide
The two-part "Melancholy Babes" presented here is an edited series of duet concerts between Han Bennink and Derek Bailey recorded over a week in March 1986. Over the week four concerts were recorded, and from these Bailey edited together five excerpts as a representation of what transpired. The first part is compiled from a series of audience recordings, and the second from a more conventional source. According to the liner notes, no attempt was made to disguise the editing, though each selection flows uninterrupted as the music would be presented in a live setting. That admission aside, the hallmark of these concerts was their stunning clarity of vision, their razor-sharp wit and repartee, and the fluency of language between the two musicians. Bailey is of his nut most of the time here, digging deeper and deeper into Bennink's glorious assault. The chord voicings and elongated single-string lines he plays here are far from typical for Bailey, even in a live setting; they surround the rhythms that are literally propelled forth incessantly in varying dynamics and tempos. But Bailey doesn't just hang in with Bennink's inexhaustible energy - he soars with it, coming to grips with a kind of power he knows he possesses but doesn't always have access to. No one does. When the music grows almost intolerably tense, Bennink will let loose with a howl or a yelp to bring the level back to merely superhuman. This is one of the finest recordings of free improvisation to be released in the latter half of the 20th century.