The blueprint broadly was that the drummer would play some of the chords and harmony from the newly-invented electronic drumset, the only chordal support for the single-note bass and frontline. Best heard here on ‘Bridge of Inhibition’, the idea blossomed fully with the arrival of a more sophisticated drumset a couple of years later.
Electronic drums in jazz – not for the faint-hearted. This is a great sounding record, mixed and recorded with the kind of care usually only afforded to rock records. Django and Iain were a golden team. ‘Stromboli Kicks’ is perhaps the best realisation of the original plan for the group.
Recorded in early 1991 in the same 100 hours it took coalition ground forces to eject Iraq from Kuwait, in which presumably all hell broke loose. Django Bates’ absence one day to collect a Jazz Award caused producer David Torn to dig deep – his work with a harmoniser on Ballamy’s tenor saxophone on ‘Temple of the Winds’ made the remaining trio sound huge.
Favourite track here is ‘Nerve’, with it’s backward-forwards-stop-go funk. I couldn’t really play it on ‘All Heaven’, the original recording, but a few weeks on the road and it’s nailed. Also Django’s melancholic and beautiful ‘Candles Still Flicker in Romania’s Dark’. We were privileged to be one of very few UK jazz outfits to regularly tour the US in the 1990’s.
The title refers to the idea of wanting to be a part of something, but yet being regarded by others - or yourself - as still an outsider. Too jazz for rock, and too rock for jazz. Earthworks needed a come-back album that took no prisoners, and much of this I really like. Great stuff here from pianist Steve Hamilton and saxophonist Patrick Clahar on ‘Dewey-eyed, then Dancing’.
My personal favourite of all my solo efforts. The‘difficult’ cover artwork was issued erroneously in two forms, causing unhelpful confusion.‘Revel Without a Pause’, ‘Come to Dust’, ‘The Wooden Man Sings…’ represent three of my more successful compositions. Here’s some drum action from ‘Revel…’
5 Stars: Downbeat. ‘Live’ is where jazz happens, where the risks are taken, the mistakes made, and the energy unleashed. Recorded live in London’s Soho, this double CD has a snappy version of ‘Original Sin’ on it; a piece that I originally wrote for B.L.U.E. with Tony Levin. Here’s some excellent Steve Hamilton piano-playing from ‘A Part and Yet Apart’.
A companion DVD to the live CD ‘Footloose in Fancy Free’, this was recorded at the now defunct Bottom Line club in NYC in 2001. Crimson bass-player Tony Levin was in the audience – we played ‘Original Sin’ for him.
Summerfold’s first release in 2004. I had a working band, and after several years of steady touring we had trust, empathy, and sharp reactions. This, the eighth Earthworks CD, features Tim Garland, a huge fan of the music of the old electric Bruford band of the late 1970s, which he’d grown up with. At his request we revisited a couple of tunes from that band; ‘One of a Kind’ and ‘Seems Like a Lifetime Ago’
The challenging circumstances surrounding this were described in my book. Musically, it doesn’t get much better than to have some of you own music arranged for a little big band of crack NYC players and to be able to present it in a top NYC jazz club. Steve Wilson’s alto sax solo on ‘Up North’ alone is worth the price of admission. Check this out – I can’t begin to tell you what fun it is to play drums in the middle of this lot.
This was a great opportunity to pull together all those videos and TV shows lying around that show Earthworks in full sail. This first volume takes the band through the 2000s ending with great performances from Tim Garland (saxes), Gwilym Simcock (piano), and Laurie Cottle (bass). Here’s a strong tune - ‘Youth’, written by Garland.
One of the aims of the earlier Earthworks and electronic drums was to challenge perceptions about what drummers should, or should not, be doing in jazz. This DVD has plenty of that in the 1990’s, giving way to an acoustic edition of the group at the end of the decade.
Having already spent twenty years on the cutting edge of modern rock percussion, Bill Bruford formed Earthworks in 1986, as a deliberate return to his roots in jazz. Availing himself of the brightest young talent on the burgeoning U.K. jazz scene, namely keyboardist and tenor horn player Django Bates, and saxophonist Iain Ballamy, both best known as frontrunners with the anarchic big band Loose Tubes, Bruford encouraged the use of rock technology with jazz sensibility - the hall mark of Earthwork's stylish approach. By letting in air and light, and adding a little wit and wisdom, they produced a particularly British antidote to the increasingly grotesque jazz fusion scene. The first LP for Editions EG, Earthworks, was a testament to their achievement.
It sounds simple, but the band only found its direction through serious live playing. No theoretical studio concoction here. Japan, Europe and the UK were all visited before the release of the first album. Immediately heads turned.
"This a heady concoction indeed, and one which joyously breaks down all sorts of musical barriers in its path."The Times
"It mixes up styles, moods and meters as effortlessly as it ignores musical boundaries."Wall St. Journal
The next five years saw the band consolidate and build on this early success with a second LP for Editions EG, Dig?, released in 1989, and a series of major jazz festival appearances in London, Glasgow, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Montreal and Chicago amongst others. Earthworks' third album, All Heaven Broke Loose, was recorded in Germany in, sadly, approximately the same one hundred hours, at the beginning of 1993, that it took the Allied Forces to defeat Iraq; the title is perhaps an optimistically ironic comment on that unhappy event.
"Earthworks makes jazz out of just about anything handy on its third release for Editions EG."Jazziz
"Bruford is able to play with the kind of flexibility and nuance that simply wouldn't work in... Genesis, Yes or King Crimson."4-stars, Downbeat
But it is ultimately live where jazz happens. Recorded mostly in America, and partly in England on tour in 1992, the band's fourth CD, Stamping Ground, was indeed, live, one-take, no overdubs, and very real.
"...fine groovemanship and advancing techniques on tuned electronic percussion."4-stars, Downbeat
Earthworks' progress was temporarily halted in 1994-96, when Bruford returned to active service with King Crimson, whose double-trio, double-drummer incarnation toured the world giving over 120 concerts. In 1997, however, business was resumed with the release of Heavenly Bodies on Virgin; this takes a broad overview of events since 1986, culling eleven tracks from across all four CDs, and adding previously unreleased live material. It is, for the newcomer, the ideal entry point to the ferocious agility with which the band negotiates the rapids, and for the long standing customer, an excellent "greatest hits" package.
1998 saw the release of Bill's "chamber trio" outing with guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner, and the legendary bassist Eddie Gomez. This revealed an ever-increasing maturity in his writing for small group which he wanted to take further and Earthworks was revitalised as his main touring and writing outlet at the end of that year.
This second edition of the band continued to use the best British talent available, and having effectively jettisoned electronic percussion Earthworks revisited the broadly acoustic sax-piano-bass-drums line up. Featuring Steve Hamilton who trained in the US, and played with Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard and Gary Burton among others; Patrick Clahar, the fast-rising London tenorist best known for his work with Incognito, and Mark Hodgson (bass), this was the quartet that produced "A Part , and Yet Apart" (1999 ), "The Sound of Surprise" (2001) and the 2002 double combo CD and DVD " Footloose and Fancy Free" / "Footloose in NYC ". With the brilliant multi-instrumentalist and composer Tim Garland, and the UK's brightest young pianist Gwilym Simcock, the ever-evolving Earthworks went on to record "Random Acts of Happiness" (2004) and "Earthworks Underground Orchestra" (2006), and release two Anthology DVDs (2007). As of January 1 2009, the group is now parked indefinitely.
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