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.
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).
Bill Bruford's career is like his drumming sound inimitable. Known for his ringing metal snare drum, crisp cymbal work, and knack for complex time signatures, a young Bruford came to prominence in the late '60s with Yes. The drummer completed his British art rock trilogy by briefly joining Genesis in the 1970s and spending a quarter-century with King Crimson through the late '90s. In between King Crimson dates, Bruford led a dazzling self-titled jazz fusion solo band from 1978 to 1980.
The follow-up to Music for Piano and Drums is more along the lines of what fans might have expected the first time around. Flags features Moraz's augmenting his piano work with his Kurzweil synthesizer; a fuller production with overdubbing, and more structure. Still, to contrast purely anthemic tracks like the opening "Temples of Joy," Bruford and Moraz offer moments of pure improvisations, including the driving "Split Seconds" and "Infra Dig," which is based around a challenging theme but ultimately evolves into a more free-flowing exploration, with Bruford's light cymbal work and strategically placed shots providing interesting counterpoint to Moraz's more flowing lines. Again the chemistry between the two is clearly evident.
Drummer Bill Bruford and Dutch pianist and keyboardist Michiel Borstlap have performed together as duos on a very occasional basis during the past few years. The music on In Two Minds features the two old friends at four live concerts from 2006-2007 that were performed in England and Norway. All of the crowd noise and applause has been edited out, so it sounds like a studio set. However very little editing and no overdubbing or mixing took place, so this is an accurate reproduction of the live performances. Borstlap and Bruford perform 11 free improvisations plus Miles Davis' "All Blues." While the playing is spontaneous, it is often melodic with a logical development and plenty of variety. A few of the selections have such strong structures that they almost sound like a standard. Some of the other pieces mostly set moods, emphasize color or have one basic idea or plot. The results are consistently intriguing and rewarding.
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.