Bill Bruford: No Random Act

John Kelman By

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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.

With a new Earthworks CD, the Earthworks Underground project, and the duo with Borstlap, Bruford has yet to consider the next project. "Of course ideas are flying about, Bruford says, "but right now I'm about ten percent of the way into thirty dates, which I'm putting together myself on the whole, and that takes a lot of work. To some degree it does sap from the speed with which you can come up with new material. It's not a facetious thing when I say you get the music you pay for; or, to put it another way, society gets the music it pays for. We can only go so fast, we musicians, we can only think up new things when we're not actually emailing Japanese promoters. You can't do it all at the same time—you can't be in Tokyo, write a new tune and play in Tokyo, you can only do one thing—unless you're Tim Garland!

Times have also changed with respect to the volume of new releases the market can bear. Gone are the days of the '60s, where artists like Miles Davis would put out a new release every four months. "There's a strong feeling that we have all the music we need, Bruford explains. "Nobody ever says, 'Oh, you've got a new CD,' they say, 'God, you've got another CD? Jesus, why don't you go away Bruford!' So when you make a CD it has to be about something, it has to have a sharp edge to it, a focus. There's often the CD that never gets made, the one you don't hear in between the ones you do hear. There's the one that you almost make and scrap or you make it in your head and scrap it, which is a good thing. So the industry forces you to have tight editorial control, to be tightly edited in what you put out so when you do put out a CD it's the very best you can do; it's about something, and it's got a clear point to it.

"You can't ask people to write nice things about you, continues Bruford, "and to interview you every six months. The system is structured so that it's really better if you don't keep throwing albums out. And I think that's the way it should be; it's lovely to hear, 'Ah, Bill is coming up with a new one, it'll be around in a couple of months and it'll be good, I hear he's got Garland on it,' and so on.

Continuous Growth

One thing is certain; each new release from Bill Bruford is an event, documenting the work of an artist who fearlessly challenges himself at every step. Like the best athletes, Bruford evolves by surrounding himself with others who force him to raise his own personal bar. The best musicians are characterized by a personal approach that is recognizable from the first note, the first beat; and Bruford is clearly a member of a select group of drummers who fall into that category. But even more, as a work in progress, he continues to examine the juncture between inventive, extended and structured composition, and the interplay that only comes from grouping together like-minded musicians who are improvisers of the highest order.

Selected Discography:

Bill Bruford's Earthworks featuring Tim Garland, Random Acts of Happiness (Summerfold, 2004)

Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Footloose in NYC (Summerfold DVD, 2002

Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Footloose and Fancy Free (Summerfold, 2002)

Bill Bruford's Earthworks, The Sound of Surprise (Summerfold, 2001)

Bill Bruford's Earthworks, A Part, and Yet Apart (Summerfold, 1999)

Bill Bruford/Ralph Towner/Eddie Gomez, If Summer Had Its Ghosts (Summerfold, 1997)

Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Stomping Ground Live (Summerfold, 1994)

Bill Bruford, Earthworks (Summerfold, 1987)

Bruford, One of a Kind (Winterfold, 1979)

Bill Bruford, Feels Good to Me (Winterfold, 1977)
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