Known as the art rock drummer who ultimately found his way to jazz, Bill Bruford doesn't appear to be letting up. It's been a busy year: the supposedly retired drummer published his thoroughly engaging Bill Bruford: The Autobiography
(Jawbone, 2009) and participated in a whack of interviews; he's released what he claims will be his final album of "new" material, Skin and Wire
(Summerfold, 2009) (teaming the intrepid drummer with contemporary keyboard group Pianocircus
, performing music by composer Colin Riley); and now comes In Tokyo
, an archival live album from his 1980s pairing with keyboardist Patrick Moraz.
Six In Tokyo's ten songs have appeared as bonus tracks on Bruford's 2004 Winterfold reissues of their two original releasesMusic for Piano and Drums (1984) and Flags (1985). But here, with the tracks restored to their proper sequence, this July 1985 performance can now be heard as it always should have. The arc of a performance is often just as important as the pieces that make it up, and while fleshing out Music for Piano and Drums and Flags seemed nice at the time, experiencing this 63-minute performance as a whole creates an entirely different impression.
By this time, both Moraz and Bruford were firmly established in the progressive rock world. Moraz appeared on Yes' outstanding Relayer (Atlantic, 1974), released solo albums including the intriguing Story of I (Atlantic, 1976), and joined The Moody Blues. One of Yes' original members, while Bruford was gone by the time Moraz joined, he was part of the group's legendary run from The Yes Album (Atlantic, 1970) through Close to the Edge (Atlantic, 1972). His decision to leave the group on the cusp of greater success was the first indication of a restless artist in search of more improvised settings. Joining King Crimson for its highly revered 1972-1974 line-up, he released his first albums as a leader, including the stellar Feels Good to Me (Winterfold, 1978) and the even better One of a Kind (Winterfold, 1979).
Like its previous releases, In Tokyo finds the duo at a nexus point, with complex form that still showed a disposition towards freer improvisation. Both players were relatively new to the world of complete spontaneity, and so relied on structure to provide context. Tracks like "Blue Brains" revolve around clear writing, knotty polyrhythms and plenty of synthesized textures, while "Hazy" provided an early hint of greater abandon. Moraz's interest in Brazilian music is given a lengthy acoustic workout on " Cachaça," first heard on I, while the dark-hued "Galatea" demonstrates no small reference to Keith Jarrett
. "The Drum Also Waltzes" joins acoustic and electronic drums together in and personal interpretation of a Max Roach
solo, the first clear recorded indication of Bruford's jazzier proclivities.
If anyone's body of work indicates progression, it's Bruford's. In Tokyo is a beautifully recorded and mastered "you are there" window into the keyboards/drums pairing that Bruford explore again laterand with greater improvisational acumen and successin his duo with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap
Personnel: Patrick Moraz: piano, keyboards; Bill Bruford: acoustic and electronic drums.