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Bill Bruford & Michiel Borstlap: In Two Minds

Roughly midway through his current 40-year recording career, drummer Bill Bruford released the explorative duo albums Music for Piano and Drums and Flags with former Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz. The drummer searched for 15 years for the right keyboardist to replicate that duo before finding Dutchman Michiel Borstlap in 2002. Their 2004 debut, Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song, was comparable. On first listen, the subsequent In Two Minds is not. But one must dig deeper to appreciate the follow-up.

In reading the liner notes, you find the entire disc is completely improvised between the two musicians-and in concert, no less, with audience noise and applause removed. Frank Zappa often recorded that way, and it’s a tactic best left to the musically brave and fearless. Bruford has always been both, and Borstlap, for the most part, matches his mindset. The pianist mimics Bruford’s Chinese gongs on the conversational opener “Kinship,” and anticipates the drummer’s time-honored stops and starts as the title track builds to a swinging boil. Borstlap’s occasional use of synthesizers, like on the Yes-influenced “From the Source, We Tumble Headlong,” provides nice changeups (Bruford was, after all, the original drummer in Yes). The keyboardist’s electric piano on “Flirt” even approximates a bass, and Bruford figuratively talks more than Borstlap on the aptly titled “The Art of Conversation.”

But In Two Minds has a meandering quality that takes hold during its second half. Only Bruford’s log drum on “Conference of the Bees” and cowbell on “Sheer Reckless Abandon” save the pieces from sounding like retreads. The duo closes with a creative cover of Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” In Two Minds would’ve fared better as a proper live album.

Originally Published