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Bill Bruford's Earthworks - A Part, and Yet Apart CD (album) cover


Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Excellent addition to any jazz collection. Yes, jazz, becouse this cd has nothing to do with progrock. It's a solid jazz realase. And so there appears a question. Will a fan of progressive rock like this stuff? Perhaps. This album has got enough energy and rythm, that will keep you sitting and listening to it's end. The disc opens with "No Truce with the Furies," kicking off on a rhythmic piano and bass line with an odd-metered feel to it behind which Bruford skips snare rolls and a steady metronome on the ride. Saxophone then introduces the main theme, edging the piece toward a jazzier feel than the opening suggests followed by an even more thoroughly jazzy piano bit. "A Part, and yet Apart" starts off with a mellow and easygoing swing feel topped by a lyrical soprano sax lead, then gives way to a more insistent section that gradually builds and flashes through some beautiful harmonized runs to return to the opening mellowness. "Footloose and Fancy Free" immediately gets you into a new groove with Latin percussion and an inordinately yummy swing-funk bass, over which piano and sax introduce the main theme's quirky boppingness. "Dewey-Eyed, then Dancing" begins precisely with the feel of an after-hours solo dance, that is suddenly interrupted by the handsomest chorus on the album, a lovely, almost straightforward cadence. The meditative mood then returns, but the cadence still seems to be creeping through the music subtly, hanging out in the background to finally return full force and end the cd perfectly. You must make you're own choice. If you like jazz be sure to pick it up.
Report this review (#28156)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album was a milestone in Bill's career; it's essential listening to all Bruford fans.

'O.K. I admire the stuff Bill did with Yes and King Crimson, and I'd like to hear more from him, but this is jazz, and I hate jazz!'

Well, in that case I suggest you first try Bill's fusion albums. If you really love his drumming, you're bound to enjoy FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND. And as soon as you're familiar with those, it's a short step to A PART, AND YET APART. The most important difference is that the main melody instrument (electric guitar) is now replaced by saxophone, and there are no synth solos any more. But the style of music remains much the same.

If the first incarnation of Earthworks (with Django Bates and Iain Ballamy) was criticised in certain quarters for being 'fusion-lite' (which will come as a surprise to anyone who knows their splendid live album, STAMPING GROUND!) this new incarnation (with Steve Hamilton on piano and Patrick Clahar on saxes) definitely sounded very muscular from the word 'go'.

Clahar's tenor sax and Bruford's own bebop-style themes sometimes evoke restless American jazz of the 1950s, but there are lots of tender moments as well. On 'Sarah's Still Life', for example, Clahar's soprano horn is reminiscent of the great Wayne Shorter. 'Dewey-eyed, then Dancing' is yet another lovely ballad, on which Bill & Co use that old trick of entertaining the listener with variations BEFORE going on to play the main theme.

Some of this album's tunes may remind you of FEELS GOOD TO ME. 'The Emperor's New Clothes' is like a slowed-down version of that album's title song. Other tunes are Canterbury-like in mood, such as 'Curiouser and curiouser'. Throughout the album, there are quite a few moments where piano and bass maintain a repetitive pattern, allowing Bill to deliver 'killer drum fills'. Steve Hamilton, also, proves himself a lyrical soloist, sometimes colouring piano improvisations with gentle synthesizer washes in the background.

There can be no doubt that, with this new incarnation of Earthworks, Bill initiated a creative renaissance. While his former bandmates were clearly in the doldrums, releasing album after album of soporific New Age piano and second-rate guitar instrumentals, Bill was on a creative high. The only other 1970s prog instrumentalist with a distinguished solo career is Steve Hackett, whose style, however, appeals less to me than Bruford's. (I still don't understand what went wrong, after 1980, with the likes of Steve Howe or Rick Wakeman.)

But the best news of all is that, by the beginning of the new millennium, the very best Earthworks album was yet to come...

Report this review (#102929)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Moogtron III
4 stars What a treat, what a treat! And... Bill Bruford has done it again. I mean: I grew up listening to rock music and classical music. I never liked anything with jazz, not even jazz rock, until I listened to Bill Bruford's late seventies / early eighties fusion albums. Then suddenly my ears were open to jazz rock. Since then I tried out pure jazz, but I couldn't appreciate it. Until I found this album: the first jazz record that I like as much as some of my favourite prog rock records. So Bill has done it again: opening my ears for a different style.

Okay, now it's time to look at the record for its own merits. It is a jazz record: unlike the albums of Earthworks mark 1, this Earthworks outfit plays an almost acoustic form of jazz. Almost, because there's still some synthesizer at the background from time to time. Very subtle, but effective: often it's the cream on the cake. Bruford's brushes and Mark Hodgson's acoustic bass show that the music is strongly rooted in bebop, though. Like Bruford once said about himself: he's only with one foot in rock, and then only three toes. This album proves his point, though I think here it's only two toes.

I would rate the album with four stars. Because it's innovative? No, it scores low on innovation. It sounds like trad jazz with some distant rock influences. The strength is to be found in three aspects:

1. The very strong compositions, mostly due to Bruford's talent of contributing highly melodic themes. Most themes are from Bruford himself, and on this album he was on a compositional high.

2. Once again Bruford surrounded himself with a very good band. All of the players excel on their instrument. Steve Hamilton is a piano player whose playing will appeal many prog fans, and sax player Patrick Clahar is responsible for the emotional high on the album's closing track. Mark Hodgson's acoustic bass and Bruford's drums seldomly come to the foreground, but when you listen closely to them, you find that they are as important for the band as the other instruments.

3. The main reason why I would give this album four stars instead of three is because this album might open prog listeners' ears to jazz. The album is jazz, but never has any moments of self-indulgent noodling. And because of the highly melodious content, this album might well be a good place for some prog listeners to start with jazz. You might even like the fast improvisations on Hamilton's Eyes On The Horizon, where Hodgson's bass sounds like a cafeine intoxicated bumble bee on a trampoline. Yes, this is hard bop, a style which I never thought I would appreciate. But Bruford and his troupe do know how to change your perspective.

One tiny point of critique: the album is, no doubt, like most (all?) jazz records for the biggest part born out of improvisation, but sometimes the album is almost on the edge of sounding a bit too polished. Almost. But the album never gets boring, and at its best the album sounds glorious, as on album highlights Footloose And Fancy Free and Dewey-Eyed, Then Dancing.

A jazz record for prog listeners.

Report this review (#188771)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permalink

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