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Bill Bruford: No Random Act

By Published: May 4, 2004
"We're up to six dates now, continues Bruford, "and we'll have a BBC broadcast from the Cheltenham Festival, but there are no plans for a commercial release. The BBC always does a good job, so it will sound great, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

"Keeping it together, given everyone is so busy, is very difficult, concludes Bruford. "The blessing is Tim Garland's energy, which is fast becoming legendary. He has fantastic stamina, because it's ten phone calls every time you think of anything with this particular band. It takes a lot of work. Easy is not a word I'd use. We will, of course, be under-rehearsed; on no occasion will the orchestra all rehearse together, right before this national recording. Sections of it will—four and five guys here and there will get together at different times, but at no time till the entire ensemble have played the music all the way through.

Still, with the high calibre of musicianship involved, it should come as no surprise that Earthworks Underground promises to be a high point of the summer UK festival season.

Duo with Michiel Borstlap

Bruford is also involved in a more informal musical partnership with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap. "It's very casual, says Bruford. "We haven't done anything as elaborate as formed a group or found a recording contract. It originated from the Dutch side where a Dutch National Radio and Television station, NPS, wanted to put together a project for a Dutch festival. They had Michiel, they were talking with him, and my name came up. They had the idea of doing a duo, because they were familiar with my work with Patrick Moraz, so they came over to London and we chatted at the airport—everybody chats at the airport these days—and all went well and we decided to do this improvising kind of duo.

"We did the show, Bruford continues, "it was filmed for TV, and then we had another festival and another and another. Then it was I, I think, who said let's go do this in Japan, we could do it in front of Earthworks, which makes it better for me because I don't like going places for one day, it drives you crazy; so we did two Borstlap nights and then six shows over three nights with Earthworks.

"It's completely improvised, continues Bruford, "but 'Blame It on My Youth' or 'Round Midnight' or 'Bemsha Swing' or something might crop up there somewhere. So if the spirit moves, a tune that you know may evolve. But it's really pretty loose. I don't prepare for it at all, in fact if anything I prepare myself by unpreparing myself. By trying to empty out and take the music for what it is, to do precisely the opposite of structure. I'm kind of a structured guy, for some reason the music I've done has always come out pretty structured, and my drumming tends to sound like compositions. So it's great to abandon that and go where the music may take you. It's in the nature of a conversation, with two people talking. With two guys on a stage you can do that, so long as you are reasonably disciplined and able to self-edit; hopefully I won't bore you to death by going on and on with what I'm saying, and then you'll have an interesting conversation that you invite the audience into.

"We have quite a lot of material already recorded, concludes Bruford, "because many of these concerts are recorded to a pretty high quality anyway. They often record straight to CD or DVD, and before you know it your desk is groaning with versions from this city or that city. So I think we're going release a two-concert DVD with a bonus audio CD as well, which I hope will be pretty much everything you need to know about that group. Hopefully it will be out before Christmas.

Summerfold and Winterfold Records

Bruford's latest release is also the début recording on his new Summerfold label, which will be distributed by Voiceprint U.K. Bruford has, in fact, created two labels; Summerfold, which will concentrate on new releases, and Winterfold, which will be used to reissue remastered versions of his back catalogue. With the Borstlap project slated to be the second release on Summerfold, can fans expect Bruford to unearth any unreleased material for the Winterfold reissues? "I have one or two strange bits and pieces up my sleeve, explains Bruford, "and a fair amount of recorded live stuff. Of course, back in the '70s nobody recorded everything because it was so complicated—a recording system in the '70s was a mobile truck; a live recording was a big occasion, microphones everywhere and sound checks that went on for days. Now, of course, everything is recorded every two minutes, so we're drowning in back material. But I do have some very exciting playing from the Bruford group, and I can probably add a couple of tracks to each of those CDs.

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