Bill Bruford is certainly no stranger in the progressive rock scene. His drum activities in the past ranged from Yes to UK to King Crimson and Bruford. They speak a clear language that leaves no doubt about his abilities. After his originally progressive rock excursions, the drummer was increasingly drawn to jazz or jazz rock, working with his band Earthworks until his retirement in 2009. The new edition of his first album Heavenly Bodies, released in 1997, is now available as a double CD and comprises 23 tracks with a total of 129 minutes of sophisticated music.
For years the group was Bruford's great passion, a formation in which he did not conform to the ideas of others - or third parties- going his own way with a group of like-minded people. He even put the money he earned with the long tours with Yes and King Crimson into this project. From 1987 the Englishman made a series of records that remained unknown to the general public, but - just like his Bruford records from ten years earlier - they were highly appreciated by connoisseurs and musicians alike. Together with his band Earthworks, Bruford effortlessly mixes and unites styles and moods, so that musical boundaries seem to be degraded to insignificance.
This double CD, for example, comes as a beautiful diptych that offers a deep glimpse into the Earthworks world across its entire breadth, from the first sessions in 1986 to the 2005 notes. The extra second CD focuses on the later Earthworks: acoustic and much more traditional jazzier than ten years earlier, in which the group as a unit and with sophistication and flexibility rises to great heights. Also because the recordings sound so natural and casual.
Admittedly, it is not light food but music to listen to with concentration, but in a sense also timeless, because there is always something new to discover. And you can't say that about a lot of jazz rock / fusion bands. As an accessible introduction to Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Heavenly Bodies is still fine, especially now that the later period has also been included and certainly for those who embrace (British) jazz from time to time.
Also on board are a number of excellent musicians who, with Bruford, ensure that there is no boredom, not for leaning back and chilling. This form of jazz rock takes its toll, so a lot of attention and a bit of perseverance is required. Jazz rock is offered with at times complex, and audibly odd measures, the compositions are supported by keyboard instruments, ingenious brass movements and of course the unprecedented drum work by Bruford. His playing always brings surprising moments, since in a way not every shot is where you expect it to be. Bill Bruford has always been open to technical innovations, so he was one of the first to use electronic drums. On the encore, with the later tracks, however, he returned to the acoustic kit.
Heavenly Bodies-An Expanded Collection can be confidently recommended as an ideal introduction to the jazzy phase of the drummer Bill Bruford. Newcomers get a good overview of the musician's musical career here. Jazz that cannot deny its proximity to progressive rock.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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