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Patrick Moraz/Bill Bruford: Music for Piano and Drums

Throughout his career, British drummer Bill Bruford has played progressive rock (with Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) and jazz (with the electric Bruford and the acoustic Earthworks) with equal authority. On his new record labels, Summerfold and Winterfold, he showcases his jazzier output, supplementing the albums with an extra CD of interviews and audio samples.

Originally recorded in 1983, Music for Piano and Drums (Winterfold) pairs Bruford’s precision playing on the kit with Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz, formerly of Yes and the Moody Blues. The most daring tracks are the two improv pieces: “Living Space” showcases Bruford’s deft touch with brushes in an engaging dialogue with Moraz, and the frantically swinging “Any Suggestions” has Bruford keeping a steady boppish pulse on the ride cymbal while matching Moraz’s rapid-fire keyboard runs with Max Roach-like snare and tom-tom statements. Bruford fuels Moraz’s outre Cecil Taylor-esque excursions on “Symmetry” with some furious playing of his own, then provides supportive brushwork behind the pianist’s rhapsodic ballad “Galatea.”

Bruford and Moraz reprise their duo on 1985’s Flags (Winterfold), an overproduced studio outing that has Moraz doubling on Kurzweil sampling synthesizer as well as playing a Steinway concert grand piano while Bruford alternates between acoustic and electronic drum kits. The album opens on a decidedly sour note with the bombastic, overproduced “Temples of Joy,” which sounds like the theme to an ’80s sitcom. Moraz’s classical/prog-rock pretensions spill over on other schlocky numbers such as “Karu,” “Impromptu, Too!” and the grandiose title track. A saving grace is Bruford’s heartfelt solo turn on Max Roach’s “The Drum Also Waltzes,” and the two acoustic-improv pieces, “Split Seconds” and “Infra Dig,” are also of interest.

Bruford’s duet with Dutch keyboardist Michiel Borstlap on Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song (Summerfold) is a far more satisfying effort. A live set culled from the duo’s 2003-2004 European tour, it bears the mark of Bruford’s looser, more highly interactive post-Earthworks playing, qualities he cultivated since forming that leading U.K. jazz band in 1987. Bruford sounds more relaxed and fully engaged with Borstlap, whether on the polyrhythmic tour de force on “The 16 Kingdoms of the 5 Barbarians” or his off-kilter groove on Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing.”

The duo strikes a particularly engaging accord on the buoyant, soul-jazz-flavored “Stand on Zanzibar,” in which Bortslap simultaneously covers bass lines on synth while playing piano to affect an Ahmad Jamal trio vibe. Other highlights include their intimate interaction on the luminous, ECM-ish “Inhaling Shade” and on the crystalline title track, their gentle reading of Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” and Bruford’s dynamic extended solo throughout the course of “One Big Vamp.”

Originally Published