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Henry Kaiser - Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei!

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Artist: Henry Kaiser

Album: Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei!

Label: Balance Point Acoustics

Review date: Jan. 6, 2007

The title tells the story. On this album Henry Kaiser pays homage to fellow improvising guitarist Derek Bailey, who died last Christmas day at the age of 75. Bailey was one of the first free improvisers; hearing one of his records inspired Kaiser to pick up the instrument, a story he tells on one of the recitation plus guitar pieces that dot this CD.

But while Bailey is the dedicatee, the subject of each oration and discussion, and the audible inspiration for some of the playing, the musician whose career is surveyed here is Kaiser’s. Fifteen tracks cover both his solo stuff and key collaborations between 1978 and 2006.

Like any improviser worth his salt, Kaiser plays differently at different times and in different situations, so there’s plenty of variety. On “The Worst of Times,” a solo electric track from 1992, he uses a towering cabinet of effects (at least that’s what he used when I saw him play around that time — if his stack of signal processors had fallen on him, he’d have died) to split, multiply, and warp his playing into an alien-sounding electronic orchestra. A splendid 1978 duo with drummer Andrea Centazzo juxtaposes moments of scrabbling contrast with eerie sirens ‘n’ gongs unisons; a much shorter exchange with saxophonist John Oswald twists gored-rhino screams and warthog gargles into a tight, impenetrable knot; during a conversation from this year with Damon Smith, he spins light, spidery acoustic ukelele figures around his partner’s massive low-end slashes.

Throughout, Kaiser exudes a palpable sense of delight in the wigged-out sounds he wrenches from his strings. To his credit, he instigates players as unalike as Mototeru Takagi and Greg Goodman to match his joy and imagination with their own.

By Bill Meyer

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