Bill Bruford

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Not to be confused with Bill Buford.
Bill Bruford
Bill Bruford Utrecht 2008.jpg
Background information
Birth name William Scott Bruford
Born (1949-05-17) 17 May 1949 (age 65)
Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Genres Progressive rock, instrumental rock, jazz/fusion
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Drums, percussion
Years active 1968–2009
Labels Polydor, E.G., Voiceprint, Winterfold, Summerfold
Associated acts The Breed, Savoy Brown, Mabel Greer's Toy Shop, Yes, King Crimson, UK, Genesis, Earthworks, Chris Squire, Bruford, Kazumi Watanabe, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, Gong, National Health, Steve Howe, Gordian Knot, Annette Peacock
Website www.billbruford.com

William Scott "Bill" Bruford (born 17 May 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent) is an English drummer, percussionist, composer, producer, and record label owner.[1] He was the original drummer for the progressive rock group Yes, from 1968–1972. Bruford has performed for numerous popular acts since the early 1970s, including a stint as touring drummer for Genesis in 1976. Following his departure from Yes and at various times until 1997, Bruford was the drummer for progressive rock band King Crimson. Bruford moved away from progressive rock to concentrate on jazz, leading his own jazz group, Earthworks, for several years. He retired from public performance in 2009, but continues to run his two record labels and to speak and write about music. His autobiography, Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, was published in early 2009.

Early years[edit]

Bruford was born in 1949, in Sevenoaks, Kent, the third child of Betty and John Bruford, a veterinary surgeon.[2] He was educated at Tonbridge School. Bruford chose to play drums after watching American jazz drummers of the 1960s on BBC TV.[3] His sister then gave him a pair of brushes as a present.[3] He later took a few lessons – while still attending Public School – from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic.[3] He began playing the drums when he was thirteen, and was influenced by jazz drumming, which later manifested itself in his later work and his style throughout his career. His favourite drummers were Max Roach, Joe Morello, Art Blakey and Ginger Baker.[4] He said that he never acquired drum technique for the sake of acquiring it, but as a solution to a particular problem, and if he heard something that he couldn't do, he would learn how to do it. Bruford applied this way of learning to other instruments as well, although acknowledging that he has the 'classic amateur's technique'; meaning that he knows some very difficult bits and that he has some large gaping holes in his knowledge, but his amateurism can sometimes be helpful in forging a style, because he has to work around his weaknesses.[3]

Bruford's earliest bands included The Breed (1966–67), a Sevenoaks-based R&B/Soul band but because Bruford was at boarding school and not available for all gigs, the band occasionally used another drummer, (and sometimes both). He also played in a short-lived band named The Noise (1967) with whom he played in Italy. He played with Savoy Brown (1968), his first professional engagement – but it only lasted all of three gigs. He had success in the early seventies during his time with Yes playing on their first five albums including the LPs The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. He left Yes in 1972, returning briefly for the Union album which was released in 1991.

Career[edit]

Yes[edit]

In the early seventies, Bruford found his first commercial success, visibility and stability. He played on their first five albums including the LPs The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. He left Yes in 1972, returning briefly for the Union album which was released in 1991. While performing with Yes in the 1970s, although seemingly a close-knit band, Bruford remembers the whole era as being very hot blooded and argumentative, with personality conflicts being the eventual reason for his exit from the group. These, for him, included problems in understanding other members' accents, differences in social backgrounds, and many other issues that set the band in a constant state of friction between Bruford, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson.[5] He also once had a fist-fight with Squire after a concert, because they had violently disagreed about who had played badly. Despite these personal issues, Bruford played all the drums on Squire's 1975 solo album, Fish Out of Water.[6] After leaving the band, in addition to Fish Out of Water, during the same year, Bruford played drums on the majority of Roy Harper's HQ.[citation needed]

The band members were no strangers to alcohol, but Bruford doesn't remember a lot of "sex, drugs and rock n' roll". The whole band used to drink a lot of alcohol, and they often visited a club in London called the Speakeasy that the band's manager, Roy Flynn, also managed. The Speakeasy stayed open until two or three in the morning, so Yes could play a gig in England within a hundred-and-fifty mile radius and still make it back to the Speakeasy at about two o'clock, where they drank "large amounts" of whiskey and Coke.[6]

King Crimson[edit]

Bruford accepted an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson, a band he had wanted to join for quite some time. He later compared this to "going over the Berlin Wall into East Germany" – Bruford stated that "In Yes, there was an endless debate about should it be F natural in the bass with G sharp on top by the organ. In King Crimson...you were just supposed to know."[7] His instinct to remember complicated drum parts was shown when he learned how to play the long percussion and guitar part in the middle of "21st Century Schizoid Man", "by listening to it and just learning it." He admits that his note-reading skills are slower than he would like: "I learned how to read the horizontal lines, but not the vertical notes." Despite this he has successfully written many compositions over the years, albeit slowly.[5]

Bruford was more interested in artistic pursuits, and the framework of King Crimson appealed to that sensibility in him. He cites the six months that the group contained avant-garde percussionist Jamie Muir as tremendously influential on him as a player, opening him up to "musical worlds I had only vaguely suspected existed." Violin, viola and keyboard player David Cross was selected to flesh out the sound of the new band. Rehearsals began in September 1972, followed by an extensive UK tour. Larks' Tongues in Aspic was released early the next year, and the group spent the remainder of 1973 touring Britain, Europe, and America.[citation needed]

Two albums were released with the four-member line-up (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Cross), Starless and Bible Black, and the posthumous live album USA, recorded on some of Cross's final dates with the band. Finally, after the departure of Cross, and the release of Red without him, in July 1974, Fripp disbanded King Crimson two months later.[8]

Genesis live[edit]

Bruford also spent six months touring with Genesis in 1976, from which recordings appeared on the Genesis live albums Seconds Out and Three Sides Live, as well as the theatrical release of Genesis: In Concert. Bruford, who was rehearsing (as guest percussionist) with Phil Collins' side project Brand X, suggested drumming while Collins sang until they found a permanent live drummer (this would be Chester Thompson, in 1977). Collins, a big Bruford fan going back to his early Genesis days, approved of the suggestion.

Solo career[edit]

Bill Bruford led his own band in the late 1970s, called simply Bruford. Members of the band were initially Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums).

The first album Feels Good to Me (recorded as a solo project) also had Annette Peacock on vocals, Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn and John Goodsall on rhythm guitar. The second album, One of a Kind, was entirely instrumental, except for some spoken lines during the introduction to "Fainting in Coils." There were two live albums from this period. Bruford – Rock Goes To College is a 2006 DVD release from the eponymous BBC Television series and The Bruford Tapes, compiled from live shows at My Father's Place in Roslyn, Long Island, in 1979 (including one broadcast on radio station WLIR—most, but not all, of the tracks on the album are from that show),[9] with 'the unknown' John Clark replacing Holdsworth on guitar.

The group's final studio album Gradually Going Tornado continued this line-up with bass player Berlin providing vocals on some songs. Backing vocals were provided by Canterbury scene stalwarts Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons.

UK[edit]

Following his first solo album, he was reunited with King Crimson bassist/vocalist John Wetton in the progressive rock group UK. During his time in the band, from 1977 to 1978, the band released its eponymous debut album and conducted one UK tour and a couple of North American tours. After this he was dismissed from the band, due to his disagreement with Wetton and keyboardist Eddie Jobson's decision to fire guitarist Allan Holdsworth, whom he'd brought into the band. He subsequently turned his focus on his own band, Bruford.

In 1983 he joined up with jazz pianist Patrick Moraz, who had also briefly played in Yes after Bruford's departure (on the Relayer album); the duo released Music for Piano and Drums that year and Flags in 1985, followed by a short string of live shows.

Return to King Crimson[edit]

Bruford was part of a newly formed King Crimson again in 1981 with a different line-up, consisting of Bruford, Robert Fripp on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals. He recorded Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair with them, moving to a kit of both acoustic and electronic drums and using his renowned polyrhythmic style, before they disbanded again in 1984.

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and Yes again[edit]

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (sometimes referred to by the acronym ABWH) was a subset of former members of the progressive rock-band Yes. The group consisted of vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe, with Tony Levin providing the bass duties since Yes bassist Chris Squire was involved with the official Yes. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe recorded one self-titled studio album in 1989. A live recording from their subsequent concert tour was released in 1993.

Bruford would rejoin Yes briefly in 1991 and 1992 for the Union album and tour, so titled because it brought together ABWH and the members of Yes prior to the union as an eight-member band. His comments about the album and tour:

Well, the more money you pay for a record, the more money you interfere with it – and this was a big budget record. So, they eventually decided that the guys in France (Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe) needed the assistance of all the other Yes guys in California (Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, Trevor Rabin and Alan White). So, our work was duly e-mailed, I guess, to them. They were then put on and found lacking. Then, also put on was a cast of a thousand studio musicians. So, the whole thing turned into the most God awful, auto-corrected mess you could possibly imagine! The worst record I've ever been on.

About the tour:

It was just a sort of a summer vacation. It was fun to do in the sense there were some 'old pals' and it was possible to do because we didn't have to give rise to any new music. So in as much as the band was just playing repertoire material, there was kind of a 'ticket buy' in the idea of all those, you know, the entire cast of Dallas on stage at once, kind of thing. And there was some kind of attraction to that. But that was really all it was, I think. And I think I was probably an unnecessary spare part. So I didn't enjoy it terribly. But those gigs can be quite fun as performing in huge stadiums can be quite fun on a kind of purely visceral level. Just kind of being there and enjoying it. I don't venture, however, you'd want to give up your day job to do it.[5]

Bruford and Steve Howe would later undertake a recording project together in 1992/1993 to have an orchestra reinterpret some of Yes' works. The resulting album, titled Symphonic Music of Yes, was released on RCA records in 1993.

King Crimson, again[edit]

King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s line-up along with Trey Gunn on Warr Guitars and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. Dubbed the 'double trio' configuration, between 1994 and 1996 they released a studio EP Vrooom, the full-length studio album Thrak, and two live albums, B'Boom: Live in Argentina and Thrakattak. Rehearsals to create new materials followed, as well as a week of performance with the sub-group ProjeKcts I in 1997, after which Bruford left the band and its iterations for good. Bruford's reason for abandoning KC was his frustration with rehearsals, which he felt weren't going anywhere.[10]

Earthworks[edit]

Earthworks was formed in December 1985 and its original line-up (which lasted until 1993) featured two up-and-coming UK jazz musicians and composers, Django Bates on keyboards and tenor horn, and Iain Ballamy on saxes. The band re-emerged in the 1990s with an acoustic line-up, notably featuring Tim Garland for a period, before splitting up in 2009 due to Bruford's retirement.

Bruford used Simmons electronic drums and his melodic drumming, though in the later years of his career he returned to using a primarily acoustic drum set. While Bruford has creative freedom with Earthworks, he continued to collaborate with many musicians, including one-time Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz (with whom he recorded two albums in the 1980s) and bassist Tony Levin. Earthworks was his primary focus in the final years of his career, particularly after his departure from the latest incarnation of King Crimson.

In an interview for The San Diego Union-Tribune (15 May 2003) he said, "I have this image that I might be a 'rock guy on vacation'. That idea is anathema to me—and I've cured it by making eight albums with Earthworks."[citation needed]

He described Earthworks as "seeing music as a social encounter, where you look another guy in the eyes across the room, say 'one-two-three-four' and the music begins. That's where my pleasure lies, for sure" (Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2003).[citation needed]

2007–Present[edit]

Bruford at the Moers Festival in Germany, 2004

With Earthworks put on hold in 2007[11] (apart from a brief return in 2008), Bruford focused on new collaborations—including as a duo with pianist Michiel Borstlap; and with contemporary composer Colin Riley and collective pianocircus—and drum clinics.

He retired from public performance on 1 January 2009,[12] although he has since played live with Ann Bailey's Soul House.[13] He retired from studio recording at the same time, although his studio work, Skin & Wire, was released later that year. His autobiography was released in early 2009.[14] He is now studying for a PhD in music at the University of Surrey.[15]

Abortive projects[edit]

Bruford has been involved in a number of abortive projects, including a trio with Rick Wakeman and John Wetton which made the headlines of Melody Maker in October 1976; Bruford has also told of "an abortive and late rehearsal/audition with bass player Jack Bruce out at his mansion in Essex, once, but nothing came of that." He was also approached in 1985 by ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to be the drummer for his new band with Paul Rodgers, The Firm, along with bass player Pino Palladino. "We rehearsed briefly, but I think decided we were mutually unsuited..!"[16]

Awards[edit]

In 1990, the readers of Modern Drummer Magazine voted him into that magazine's Hall of Fame.[17]

Discography[edit]

Yes[edit]

King Crimson[edit]

Appearances[edit]

UK[edit]

  • UK (1978)
  • Concert Classics, Vol. 4 (1978 live recording – released 1999)
  • Live in America (1978 live recording – released 2007)

Bruford[edit]

Duo with Patrick Moraz[edit]

Patrick Moraz[edit]

  • Timecode (1984)

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe[edit]

Orchestral project with Steve Howe and Jon Anderson[edit]

Earthworks[edit]

With The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam[edit]

  • Go Between (1987)

Bruford with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez[edit]

  • If Summer Had Its Ghosts (1997)

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities[edit]

Gordian Knot[edit]

Duo with Michiel Borstlap[edit]

  • In Concert in Holland (2006)
  • Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song (2007)
  • In Two Minds (2009)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Bill Bruford". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Bruford 2009, pp. 25.
  3. ^ a b c d Mike Brannon (March 2001). "Bill Bruford Interview: In the Court of the Percussion King". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on April 5, 2001. 
  4. ^ http://www.hit-channel.com/interviewbill-bruford-yesking-crimsongenesisearthworks/571
  5. ^ a b c "Interview - Bill Bruford Interview". Abstract Logix. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  6. ^ a b "Yesstories: Beginnings". Archived from the original on February 18, 2005. 
  7. ^ "Prog Rock Britannia (2009)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  8. ^ Snider,Charles (2007). The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock (1st ed.). Chicago: Strawberry Bricks. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-6151-7566-9
  9. ^ Album tracks that are from different shows than 12 July 1979 WLIR broadcast are 'Hell's Bells,' 'Sample And Hold,'and '5G.' The broadcast also included performances of three tunes that do no appear on the album: 'Joe Frazier,' 'Forever Until Sunday' and 'Adios a la Posada.' In addition, the WLIR broadcast versions of 'Travels With Myself' and 'One of a Kind' were complete, but are truncated on the album.
  10. ^ "Apart, And Yet Apart - An Interview with Bill Bruford". Worldofgenesis.com. 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  11. ^ http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article2923582.ece
  12. ^ "Bill retires from public performance". Official Bill Bruford Website. January 26, 2009. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Soul House website". Soulhouse.co.uk. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Bruford 2009.
  15. ^ "Bill Bruford, PhD Music | University of Surrey - Guildford". Surrey.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  16. ^ "billbruford.com Forums: Bill answered your questions". Official Bill Bruford Website. April 17, 2007. Archived from the original on October 8, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Biography - Bill Bruford". Official Bill Bruford Website. Archived from the original on May 28, 2002. 

References[edit]

  • Bruford, Bill (2009). Bill Bruford The Autobiography. Jawbone Press. ISBN 978-1906002237. 

External links[edit]