Barry Guy

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Barry Guy (2011)

Barry John Guy (born 22 April 1947, in London) is a British composer and double bass player. His range of interests encompasses early music, contemporary composition, jazz and improvisation, and he has worked with a wide variety of orchestras in the UK and Europe. He also taught at Guildhall School of Music.

Born in London, Guy came to the fore as an improvising bassist as a member of a trio with pianist Howard Riley and drummer Tony Oxley (Witherden, 1969). He also became an occasional member of John Stevens' ensembles in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. In the early 1970s, he was a member of the influential free improvisation group Iskra 1903 with Derek Bailey and trombonist Paul Rutherford (a project revived in the late 1970s, with violinist Philipp Wachsmann replacing Bailey). He also formed a long-standing partnership with saxophonist Evan Parker, which led to a trio with drummer Paul Lytton which became one of the best-known and most widely travelled free-improvising groups of the 1980s and 1990s. He was briefly a member of the Michael Nyman Band in the 1980s, performing on the soundtrack of The Draughtsman's Contract.

London Jazz Composers Orchestra[edit]

Guy's interests in improvisation and formal composition received their grandest form in the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Originally formed to perform Guy's composition Ode in 1972 (released as a 2-LP set on Incus and later, in expanded form, as a 2-CD set on Intakt), it became one of the great large-scale European improvising ensembles. Early documentation is spotty – the only other recording from its early years is Stringer (FMP, now available on Intakt paired with the later "Study II") – but beginning in the late 1980s the Swiss label Intakt set out to document the band more thoroughly. The result was a series of ambitious, album-length compositions designed to give all the players in the band maximum opportunity for expression while still preserving a rigorous sense of form: Zurich Concerts, Harmos, Double Trouble (originally written for an encounter with Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, though the eventual CD was just for the LJCO), Theoria (a concerto for guest pianist Irène Schweizer), Three Pieces, and Double Trouble Two. The group's activities subsided in the mid-1990s, but it was never formally disbanded, and reconvened in 2008 for a one-off concert in Switzerland. In the mid-1990s Guy also created a second, smaller ensemble, the Barry Guy New Orchestra.

Other activities[edit]

Guy has also written for other large improvising ensembles, such as the NOW Orchestra and ROVA (the piece Witch Gong Game inspired by images by the visual artist Alan Davie).

His current improvising activities include piano trios with Marilyn Crispell and Agusti Fernandez. He has also recorded several albums for ECM, which often focus on the interface between improvisers and electronics, including his work in Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and his own Ceremony.

Guy's session work in the pop field includes playing double bass on the song "Nightporter", from the Japan album Gentlemen Take Polaroids.

He is married to the early music violinist Maya Homburger. After spending some years in Ireland, they now live in Switzerland. They run the small label Maya, which releases a variety of records in the genres of free improvisation, baroque music and contemporary composition.


Guy's jazz work is characterised by free improvisation, using a range of unusual playing methods: bowed and pizzicato sounds beneath the bass's bridge; plucking the strings above the left hand; beating the strings with percussion instrument mallets; and "preparing" the instrument with sticks and other implements inserted between the strings and fingerboard. His improvisations are often percussive and unpredictable, inhabiting no discernible harmonic territory and pushing into unknown regions. However, they can also be melodious and tender with due regard for harmonic integration with other players, and at times he will even play with a straight jazz swing feel.

Similarly, in his concert works, Guy manages to alternate harmonic and rhythmic complexity worthy of 1960s experimentalists such as Penderecki and Stockhausen with joyous, often ecstatic, melody. Works such as "Flagwalk" for string orchestra and "Fallingwater – Concerto for Orchestra" display Guy's compositional skill in handling extended forms and writing for large instrumental groups.

Some of his compositions, such as "Witch Gong Game" for ensemble, use graphic notation in conjunction with cue cards to lead performers into playing and improvising material from numbered sections of the score.

He is also an architect.

Concert works[edit]


  • Incontri (1970)
  • Anna (1974)
  • Flagwalk (1974)
  • Songs from Tomorrow (1975)
  • Voyages of the Moon (1983)
  • The Eye of Silence (1988)
  • UM 1788 (1989)
  • After the Rain (1992)
  • Concerto for Orchestra: "Fallingwater" (1996)

Large ensemble (seven or more players)[edit]

  • Bitz! (1979)
  • D (1972)
  • Look Up! (1991)
  • Play (1976)

Soloists and large ensemble (seven or more players)[edit]

  • Statements II – Ex (1979)
  • Works for 2–6 Players:
  • Bubblets (1998)
  • Buzz (1994)
  • Eos X (1976)
  • The Eye of Silence (1989
  • Four Miniatures (1969)
  • Games (for All Ages) (1973)
  • Mobile Herbarium (1992)
  • Pfiff (1979)
  • Redshift (1998)
  • rondOH! (1985)
  • String Quartet No.2 (1970)
  • Un Coup de Dés (1994)
  • Whistle and Flute (1985)

Solo works (excluding keyboard)[edit]

  • Celebration (1994)
  • Statements II (1972)

Solo voices and up to six players[edit]

  • Remembered Earth (1992)
  • The Road to Ruin (1986)
  • String Quartet No.3 (1973)
  • Waiata (1980)
  • Eos (1978)
  • Kingdom (1992)
  • No Man's Land (1974)
  • Video Life (1986)

Music for film or television[edit]

  • Breaking the Surface (1986)

Electroacoustic works[edit]

  • Hold Hands and Sing (1978)

These works are published by Chester Novello, UK, and further information may be found on their Barry Guy page.[1]


  • Ode (Incus 1972) - London Jazz Composers' Orchestra

As Iskra 1903 - with Paul Rutherford

  • Buzz Soundtrack (Emanem 1970-71 [2002]) with Derek Bailey
  • Iskra 1903 (Incus, 1972) with Derek Bailey - reissued as Chapter One 1970-1972 on Emanem in 2000 with additional material
  • Goldsmiths (Emanem, 1972 [2011]) with Derek Bailey
  • Chapter Two 1981-3 (Emanem, 1982-3 [2006]) with Phil Wachsmann
  • South on the Northern (Emanem, 1988-9 [2013]) with Phil Wachsmann
  • Frankfurt 1991 (Emanem, 1991) with Phil Wachsmann
  • Iskra Nckpa 1903 (Maya Recordings, 1992 [1995]) with Phil Wachsmann

1966/1967, Withdrawal (1966–67), Emanem 4020. Spontaneous Music Ensemble.

1967, Discussions. Opportunity CP2500. Howard Riley trio.

1968/1969, Angle, CBS Realm 52669/Sony-Columbia 494433. Howard Riley Trio.

1969, Prayer for peace, Transatlantic TRA 196/FMRCD96-V0402. Amalgam (Guy appears on one track only)

1969, Diversions, Openian 001. Bob Downes Open Music.

1970, The Day Will Come, CBS 64077//Sony-Columbia 494434. Howard Riley Trio.

1970, Hell's angels, BDOM 003. Bob Downes Open Music.

1970, Die jazz werkstatt, NDR. On Saturnalian by Tony Oxley.

1971, Jazz workshop 71, NDR TV. On Whoop, La Palette by Barre Phillips.

1971, Flight, Turtle TUR301. Howard Riley trio. Re-released on FMR in 1995.

1971, Ichnos, RCA Victor SF 8215. As member of Tony Oxley Group.

1971, For all it is, JAPO 60003. Phillips/J.F.Jenny-Clarke/Danielson/Guy/Martin (Four basses/percussion).

1972, Tony Oxley Incus 8.

1972/1973, Sequences 72 & 73, Emanem 4018. Paul Rutherford/Iskra 1912.

1973, Synopsis, Incus 13 LP/Emanem 4044 CD. Howard Riley trio.

1973, Free improvisation, Deutsche Grammophon 2740 105. Three-record set with one record devoted to Iskra 1903.

1974/75, Overground, Emanem 4054 CD. Howard Riley Trio.

1976, Statements V-XI for double bass and violone, Incus 22. Early solo playing.

1977, February papers Incus 18 . 1977, No fear, Spotlite SPJ 556/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD001. John Stevens/Trevor Watts/Barry Guy.

1977, Mining the seam, Spotlite SPJ 556/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD003. John Stevens/Trevor Watts/Barry Guy.

1977, Improvisations are forever now Vinyl VS 113. Guy/Riley/Wachsmann.

1977/79, Improvisations are forever now Emanem 4070. Re-issue of Vinyl LP with extra tracks from 1979: Guy/Riley/Wachsmann.

1978, Application, interaction, and..., Spotlite SPJ 513/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD002. John

1979, Endgame, JAPO Records 60028. Howard Riley/Barry Guy/John Stevens/Trevor Watts.

1979, 4,4,4,4, View VS 0011/Konnex CD.

1979, Facets, Impetus 38002. With Howard Riley and John Stevens.

1979, Organic, Jazzprint JPVP115. Howard Riley/Barry Guy/John Stevens.

1980, Pisa 1980: improvisors' symposium, Incus 37 (LP)/psi 04.03/4 (CD).

1980, Long on Dossier ST 7529. Single track on Jon Rose LP.

1980/1991, Study II/Stringer, Intakt CD095. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1981, Incision, FMP SAJ-35. Duo with Evan Parker.

1981, Paintings, FMP 0960. Bass duos with Peter Kowald.

1981, Bass duets, FMP CD 102. Peter Kowald duos with Barre Phillips, Barry Guy, Maarten Altena.

1981–1983, Chapter two 1981-3, Emanem 3CD 4303. Iskra 1903.

1983, IRCAM, un portrait, IRCAM 001/1983. Barry Guy/Jane Manning, Soft Morning City (Machover).

1983, Tracks, Incus 42. Parker/Guy/Lytton.

1983, Hook, drift and shuffle, Incus 45 LP/psi 07.07 CD.

1983, Re Touch, View VS0025. Alan Holdsworth/Jeff Young/Barry Guy/Ron Mathewson/John Stevens.

1984, Machover, American Contemporary CRI SD 506. Ensemble contemporain with Jane Manning & Barry Guy.

1984, Stringer, SAJ-41. London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.

1984, Supersession, Matchless MR17.

1985, Assist, Jazz & NOW 4. Solos plus a long duo improvisation with Fred Van Hove.

1985, Tai kyoku, Jazz & NOW 3. Duo with Evan Parker.

1985, Tomorrow is here Dossier ST 7507. The Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra.

1985, To whom it may concern, Allelopathy ALL-1. Two quartets including Evan Parker.

1986, Atlanta, Impetus IMP 18617.

1987/1988, Zurich concerts, Intakt 005. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1989, Arcus, Maya MCD 9101. Double bass duets with Barre Phillips.

1989, Harmos, Intakt CD013. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1989, Double trouble, Intakt CD019. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1990, Play with light and shade, SLAMCD 402. Duo with Vanessa Mackness on compilation CD.

1990, Nailed, FMP CD 108. Cecil Taylor: The Quartet.

1990, Melancholy, FMP CD 104. Cecil Taylor Workshop Ensemble.

1991, Elsie Jo live, Maya MCD 9201.

1991, Fizzles, Maya MCD 9301. Solo doublebass and chamber bass.

1991, Theoria, Intakt CD024. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1991, Frankfurt 1991, Emanem 4051. Iskra 1903.

1992, Iskra/Nckpa 1903, Maya 9502.

1992, Mouth eating trees and related activities, Okka Disk OD12010. Gustafsson/Guy/Lovens.

1992, Meetings, Splasc(h). Mario Schiano.

1993, Imaginary values, Maya MCD 9401.

1993, After the rain, NMC DO13S. Composition by Guy; City of London Sinfonia, conductor Richard Hickox.

1993, Vade Mecum, Soul Note 121208. With Bill Dixon.

1993, Vade Mecum II, Soul Note 121211. With Bill Dixon.

1993, Cascades, Music and Arts 853. With Marilyn Crispell.

1993, Birmingham concert, Rare Music RM026. With Evan Parker, Paul Dunmall, Tony Levin.

1993, Portraits, Intakt CD 035. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1994, 50th birthday concert, Leo CD LR 212/213. Schlippenbach trio on one CD; Parker/Guy/Lytton trio on the other.

1994, Study – Witch Gong Game, Barry Guy and the NOW Orchestra, Maya MCD 9402.

1994, Obliquities, Maya 9501.

1994, Breaths and heartbeats, Rastascan BRD 019.

1994/1995, You forget to answer, Maya MCD 9601. With Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid.

1995, The secret Magritte, Black Saint 120177-2. Larry Ochs with Lisle Ellis, Barry Guy, Chris Brown, Marilyn Crispell, William Winant, Rova Sax Quartet.

1995, Bush fire, Ogun OGCD 009. With Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, Pule Pheto, Gibo Pheto.

1995, The Redwood Session, CIMP 101. with Evan Parker

1995, Three pieces for orchestra, Intakt CD 045. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1995, Double trouble two, Intakt CD 053. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

1995, Nickelsdorf Konfrontation, Silkheart 143. Joel Futterman-Kidd Jordan Quintet.

1995, Sensology, Maya MCD 9701. Duo with Paul Plimley.

1996, Natives and aliens, Leo CD LR 243. Evan Parker trio ith Marilyn Crispell.

1996, Social security Victo cd043. Mario Schiano.

1996, Extremely Quartet Hat ART CD 6199. John Law.

1996, Toward the Margins, ECM New series 1612. The Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble.

1996, At The Vortex (1996), Emanem 4022. Parker/Guy/Lytton.

1996, gryffgryffgryffs, Music & Arts CD-1003. Guy, Gustafsson, Strid, Crispell.

1997, Hilliard songbook: new music for voices, ECM New Series 1614/15. Hilliard Ensemble with Barry Guy bass.

1997, Frogging, Maya MCD 9702. Duo with Mats Gustafsson.

1997, GUDIRA, nuscope recordings 1003. GUDIRA.

1997, Ceremony, ECM New series 1643. Maya Homburger/Barry Guy.

1997, Hidros one (1997), Caprice 21566. Mats Gustafsson.

1997, Dividuality, Maya MCD0101. Evan Parkern/Barry Guy/Lawrence Casserley.

1997, At Les Instants Chavirés, psi 02.06. Parker/Guy/Lytton.

1998, Drawn Inward, ECM 1693. The Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble.

1998, Bingo, Victo CD056. Rova Saxophone Quartet, composition: Witch Gong Game by Barry Guy (Guy does not play).

1998, Sit fast, Virgin Classics 7243. Fretwork, composition: Buzz by Barry Guy (Guy does not play).

1999, After Appleby, Leo CD LR 283/284. Parker/Guy/Lytton with Marilyn Crispell.

1999, 2X3=5, Leo CD LR 305. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Schlippenbach Trio.

1999, Odyssey, Intakt CD 070. Guy/Crispell/Lytton.

2000, Inscape – Tableaux, Intakt CD 066. Barry Guy New Orchestra.

2000, Lux aeterna, ECM 1695. Thomas and Patrick Demenga, cello; includes composition Redshift by BG (Guy does not play).

2001, Fayka, Enja ENJ-9447 2. Duos with Mahmoud Turkmani.

2001, Symmetries, Maya MCD 0201. Solo doublebass.

2001, Celebration, Auditorium AUD 01203. Maya Homburger/Walter Prati/Barry Guy.

2001, 2 of 2, SOFA 510 Tri-Dim + Barry Guy (+ Jim O'Rourke).

2002, Birds and blades, Intakt 080.

2002, Total Music Meeting 2002 – Audiology II, a/l/l 006. Compilation CD of 11 groups live in Berlin.

2002, J.S. Bach/Barry Guy, Maya MCD 0301. Maya Homburger. (Guy does not play on this CD)

2002, Memory/Vision (ECM, 2002) The Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble.

2002?, Grain, DotDotDot Music 003. One (very) short solo track on this compilation.

2003, Ithaca, Intakt CD 096. Guy/Crispell/Lytton.

2003, November Music 2003, November Music NM 007. One track on compilation CD.

2004, Dakryon, Maya MCD 0501. Maya Homburger/Barry Guy/Pierre Favre.

2004, Gubbröra, psi 04.10. Sandell/Stackenas/Parker/Guy/Lytton.

2004, Oort-Entropy, Intakt CD 101. Barry Guy New Orchestra.

2004, Free zone Appleby 2004, psi 05.05. Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Evan Parker/Joel Ryan/Philipp Wachsmann.

2004, Brainforest, Intakt CD 107. Jacques Demierre/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli.

2004, Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3, ECM 1872/171 6989. Roscoc Mitchell and the Transatlantic Art Ensemble.

2004, Boustrophedon (ECM, 2008). Evan Parker and the Transatlantic Art Ensemble

2004/6, Aurora, Maya Recordings MCD0601. Fernandez/Guy/Lopez.

2005, Folio, ECM New series 1931.

2005, Open textures, Forward.rec 006. Carlos Bechegas/Barry Guy.

2005, Falkirk, FMRCD168-i0706. Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Barry Guy.

2006, Zafiro, Maya Recordings MCD0602. Parker/Guy/Lytton.

1972–2006, Portrait, Intakt CD 123. Compilation/Celebration of 25 years of Barry Guy's music.

2007, The Moment's Energy (ECM, 2007) Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

2007, Topos, Maya Recordings MCD 0701. Guy/Parker/Fernadez/Lytton.

2008, Tarfala, Maya Recordings MCD0801. Guy/Gustafsson/Strid.


  • Barry Witherden: "Conversation Pieces", in: Jazz Monthly, April 1969, pp. 8–10 (an article describing Guy's playing style as a member of the Howard Riley Trio of the late 1960s).
  • Benjamin Dwyer: "An Interview with Barry Guy", in: B. Dwyer: Different Voices. Irish Music and Music in Ireland (Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, 2014), p. 133–142.


External links[edit]