Bill Bruford's seminal jazz quartet Earthworks packed the house for most of its ten shows at NYC's Iridium Jazz Club, November 2-5, showcasing some new pieces and treating the audience to favorites from the group's repertoire as well as from Bruford's solo career. Joining the leader and his longtime collaborator Tim Garland were electric bassist Laurence Cottle (credits: Eric Clapton, Brian Eno) and young Welsh virtuoso pianist/composer Gwilym Simcock.
Bruford's tune selections ranged from the "aromatic (his description) Middle Eastern- influenced "Pigalle and "Libreville to later Earthworks favorites such as "Footloose and Fancy Free, "White Knuckle Wedding (from Random Acts of Happiness), and the sultry Latin-tinged romp of Garland's "Bajo Del Sol.
The four-night run also served as the stateside debut of Gwil Simcock's contributions to the Earthworks fold. The playful "Highland Games and sublime ballad "Song provided a mere glimpse into the compositional abilities of this inarguably gifted young man. In addition, Tim Garland, whose arresting compositions grace the last two Earthworks releases and are regularly featured in live Earthworks performances, introduced his new piece "Youth."
Listeners who were energized enough to attend the midnight shows were treated to blistering versions of 70s Bruford band favorites "Beelzebub and "5G. Those pieces translated beautifully into the acoustic arena, speaking not only to their timeless endurance but also to the skills of the arranger(s) and to the extraordinary synergy and individual talents of this particular lineup.
While no recording took place during this visit (Bruford recorded there with the nine- piece expanded Earthworks Underground Orchestra in December 2004 and released the Earthworks Underground Orchestra double live CD in 2006), this run at the Iridium was a powerful and joyous celebration of the band's twentieth anniversary. The leader himself emphatically declared from the stage that he believed this was the best lineup of Earthworks yet. Certainly anyone in attendance would be challenged to imagine how it could get better.
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