Earthworks Digs Deep
Bill Bruford’s Earthworks
Scullers, Boston MA
May 29, 2001
There are many I’m sure that have come to feel that jazz is more “museum music” than anything else. Many, I’m sure wondering is it possible to do anything new or genuinely exciting in the jazz idiom, given its unfortunate tendency to constantly dwell in its past to the exclusion of true innovation, the principle on which jazz was founded to start with. But take heart, Ken Burns and Wynton Marsalis have not had the last word on that one, not as long as Earthworks is around.
Even the unusual arrangement of Bruford’s drum kit gave hints that this was not going to be a typical jazz show. Promptly at 8pm, Bruford and his distinguished cohorts unassumingly took the stage, and proceeded to throw any hints of cliché’ or tedium out the window (you could practically hear those things screaming as they plunged into the Charles River below) and gave jazz a much needed kick in the rear. While Earthworks has its noticeable reference points (like the classic early to mid 60’s John Coltrane quartets), it takes those things into another world altogether. Prone to wonderful bouts or poignant balladry, twisty middle-Eastern flavored melody lines, smoky crime-jazz flavorings, joyous outbursts and many unexpected, yet flowing changes of meter and tempo, Earthworks does not allow for boredom or predictability.