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May 2004

Bill Bruford Earthworks featuring Tim Garland
Random Acts of Happiness
Summerfold Records

Bill Bruford's Earthworks is the famous progressive rock drummer's longstanding outlet for his own original jazz-oriented compositions. Random Acts of Happiness (Summerfold) documents a live gig at Yoshi's in the Bay Area during the last spring with the polished saxophonist Tim Garland (a member of Chick Corea's Origin), bassist Mark Hodgson and pianist Steve Hamilton.

The opening track, "My Heart Declares a Holiday," is an impressive drumming showcase. Garland's robust tenor work is on full display on this metronomically confounding vehicle (is it an alternating 6/8 and 7/8 pattern?). No matter: Bruford handles the shifting time signatures seamlessly and extrapolates on that interlocking groove with a brilliant solo to boot. For the African-flavored undercurrent at the intro to "White Knuckle Wedding," Bruford switches to log drum as Garland shifts to flute. But the piece soon develops into a labyrinth of tricky time-signature changes that the metrically adept Bruford manages to juggle into a coherent though deceptive groove-now 12/8? now 5/4? now 4/4? now a son?-though never staying in any one place too long.

Garland is prominently featured on his own expressive ballad "Turn and Return," then Bruford stretches out on the kit in percolating fashion on the Hamilton/Garland composition "Tramontana" as well as the virtuosic solo drum piece "With Friends Like These...," in which he reveals his indebtedness to both Max Roach and Elvin Jones. The Garland composition "Speaking With Wooden Tongues" may be the one piece on the set where Earthworks crosses paths with Bruford's "other" band, King Crimson.

A remarkably accomplished drummer, Bruford showcases his rhythmic authority on this forcefully swinging, grooving and invigorating live outing.

Originally published in May 2004
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