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Bill Bruford and Earthworks: The Sound of Surprise

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Best known for his high-profile stints in Yes and King Crimson, drummer Bill Bruford has been taking little vacations from his day job for something like two decades now. With each of his successive side projects, he’s edged closer to the trappings of mainstream jazz, stripping away the electronics and gimmicks until finally, on The Sound of Surprise, what’s left is the very foundation of the tradition: a saxophone, a piano, a bass and a drum kit.

Even in this context, however, Bruford remains unmistakable to anyone who knows his previous work. A friend once aptly stated that Bruford’s snare drum is as recognizable as Miles Davis’ Harmon-muted trumpet. The crisp timekeeping and muscular fills of his rock work are also very much in evidence. A penchant for tricky time signatures continues to inform his writing; it’s not impossible to imagine such quirky uptempo tunes as “Revel Without a Pause” and “Cloud Cuckoo Land” fitting neatly on one of his records from the late ’70s. The ballads are frequently another matter; the lovely, limpid “Come to Dust” wouldn’t feel out of place on a Branford Marsalis disc.

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