While the music made by Bill Bruford's earlier Earthworks band was consistently more interesting, his current lineup continues to make great strides given its more traditional stance (post-bop acoustic piano/saxophone quartet verses ultra-modern Euro-jazz fusion). On the live Footloose and Fancy Free, the group exceeds its own studio performances with room to spare. The lovely ballad "Come to Dust" is a fine showcase for pianist Steve Hamilton, and Bruford's punchy drumming moves a complex "Triplicity." Even non-Earthworks tunes from Bruford's late-'90s collaborations with Tony Levin ("Original Sin") and Ralph Towner ("If Summer Had Its Ghosts") get inspiring interpretations as well, thanks to the well-seasoned playing of both tenor/alto saxophonist Patrick Calahar and Hamilton.
On If Summer Had Its Ghosts, a primarily acoustic trio recording, drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Eddie Gómez, and pianist/guitarist Ralph Towner create some lush, wondrous, spontaneous and melodic music. It has jazz roots, improvisational branches, and elfin extensions. There's no gimmickry or pretension, although Bruford does add some sampled colors, and Towner overdubs his instruments as well as throwing in a pinch of electronic keyboards. What you basically hear is Bruford's newest and freshest music, interpreted and extrapolated upon by three virtuosos in mellifluous interactive conversation. At their most swinging, as on the lively, four/four, tick-tock, light rimshot, mid-tempo swing of the title track, they are telepathic, with Towner effortlessly switching from acoustic 12-string to piano and Gómez laying down soulful, full, deep bass punctuations.
Drummer Bill Bruford made a name for himself in the '70s as a rock & roller of a progressive bent. In the '80s he formed the rather extraordinary jazz/fusion band that became Earthworks – Bruford, saxophonist Iain Ballamy, keyboard and brass virtuoso Django Bates, and bassist Mick Hutton. This was their first album; an interesting one it was, though a later, live recording of the band presented some of the same material in a more highly developed state, rendering this original somewhat irrelevant.
The music of Bill Bruford's Earthworks on All Heaven Broke Loose is quite unusual. The multi-themed originals feature top-notch playing by the quartet (Bruford on drums and electronic percussion, Django Bates on keyboards, peck horn and trumpet, Iain Ballamy on reeds, and bassist Tim Harries) that looks toward Ornette Coleman; at times (Ballamy's tenor sometimes recalls Dewey Redman) while traveling its own singular path. Full of unpredictability, subtle mood changes, touches of eccentric funk and a surprisingly creative use of electronic rhythms here and there, Bruford's band plays intense but sometimes melancholy and introspective music. This version of the release includes an additional CD of bonus material.
This is intelligent fusion – intricately crafted, high energy, and technically impressive. Bill Bruford has distinguished himself from the majority of rock musicians with a consistent drive to experiment and challenge himself artistically. He composes innovative tunes with subtle rhythmic twists, often in odd meters, and his drumming is always musical and very precise. This is the third studio release of the fusion group that he assembled in 1977. Gradually Going Tornado attempted to further streamline the group's approach and introduced the vocal work of the brilliant electric bassist Jeff Berlin (heavily influenced by Jack Bruce and Jaco Pastorius).
Rock Goes to College by drummer Bill Bruford's late-1970s band Bruford, was greeted with considerable excitement. Featuring Hatfield and the North/National Health keyboardist Dave Stewart and über-bassist Jeff Berlin, the group only played a couple of live dates with original guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who left shortly afterwards and was replaced by "The Unknown John Clarke. One of those performances was recorded by the BBC for television broadcast and, while it's a scant 42-minutes long, it represents a high water mark for the British progressive/fusion scene of that time—or, for that matter, any other.
When Bill Bruford led his jazz-oriented Earthworks combo in the '80s and '90s, jazz supporters were hoping that he was turning a lot of rockers on to jazz. After all, he had been Yes' drummer from 1968-1972 and was highly regarded by progressive rock lovers. And, to be sure, some Yes fans bought Earthworks CDs simply because it was Bruford's band. Of course, A Part, And Yet Apart is a long way from the music Bruford played on classic Yes albums like Fragile and Close to the Edge (which was his last album with the band by the time Tales from Topographic Oceans was recorded in 1973, Alan White had become Yes' drummer). This is acoustic-oriented jazz, and the playing of Bruford and his Earthworks sidemen Patrick Clahar (tenor and soprano sax), Steve Hamilton (piano, keyboards) and Mark Hodgson (acoustic bass) is swinging and mostly straight-ahead.
When Bill Bruford emerged from Yes, his reputation as a drumming legend was firmly established. He then went on to refine and expand his individual technique and style with King Crimson. His solo career, while not as commercially successful as those bands, has also been impressive. His explorations with Allan Holdsworth continued to carry the fusion torch with dignity. Never one to rest on his laurels, Bruford continued to search for different contexts in which to express his musical and percussive ideas. This effort, with his band Earthworks, is a solid effort. The contrast between the traditional horns (saxophone and french horn) sounds awkward against the electronic percussion and synthesizer that is used heavily throughout the session.
After a decade in the business playing with Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and UK, Bill Bruford's first solo album finds him going in the jazz direction his career would eventually exclusively become. The music on this album was written between January and June 1977 rehearsed for three weeks and recorded and mixed at Trident Studios in London, August 1977.