“One Of A Kind” - The Career of Bill Bruford examined by: Jonathan Dann. Photographs: Ted Sayers and TWR Archive.
At long last it is time to give Bill Bruford some exposure! Although he only played with Genesis on the A Trick Of The Tail tour, his innovative skills behind the drum kit and his varied career make him one of the more interesting “additional” members of the band.
Bill’s main interest has always been jazz- quite possibly as it offers him the opportunity to play more of those differing time signatures that he is so fond of! He gained some useful experience with Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra before being recruited by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire for Yes. Legend has it that Bill painted his inexpensive Olympic kit black to make it look more like a Premier! This certainly had the desired effect, as he secured a place with Yes in 1968, going on to record five studio albums with them
At one stage Bill considered leaving the band and his place was almost taken by a certain Phil Collins! Bill did decide to leave after the release of Close to The Edge and chose to join King Crimson. Although some questioned this move, Bill saw it as a way to establish himself as a musician in his own right. Along with Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross and Jamie Muir, Bill completed one of the strongest Crimson line ups since the band’s inception in 1968. The albums from this line up are certainly worthy of inviestigation, although they take time to get into. After the release of the live album USA, the band called it a day.
Bill moved on immediately to join Gong, then Trigger (with Roy Harper) before his famed stint with Genesis in 1976. Examples of Bill’s playing with the band can be heard on Seconds Out (Cinema Show) and on Three Sides Live (Fountain Of Salmacis/It-Watcherof The Skies). When the Genesis tour came to an end, Bill spent a couple of months with National Health before moving on to one of rock’s great “lost” super groups: Wakeman, Wetton and Bruford. Sadly nothing came of this collaboration and Bill move don yet again to form UK where he can be heard on one of their albums. Perhaps Bill felt that he could gain more from having his own band, for he then formed “Bruford” which included Allan Holds worth (guitar), Jeff Berlin (bass) and Dave Stewart (Keyboards). They recorded two excellent jazz-fusion albums: Feels Good To Me and One Of A Kind. After Allan Holdsworth left the band, John Clark took up the guitar position for the recording of Gradually Going Tornado, perhaps a slightly less impressive album than their first two, but still of interest nonetheless. The final Bruford album: The Bruford Tapes which consisted of a session recorded for American radio, is the hardest to find but is worthy of investigation.
By 1981 Bill had become involved with Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew and Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel’s bass player) in a group that was initially called Discipline but which soon became King Crimson. One of the most striking features of the band was Bill’s use of electronic drums to produce melodic sounds which has remained one of his interests. The albums for this Crimson line up are certainly interesting although they are in a very different musical vein to the original Crimson material. Crimson also supported Genesis on several of their European tour dates in 1982 - quite a turn up for the books don’t you think?
As Crimson disintegrated so Bill became involved with Patrick Moraz (another ex member of Yes) and they made two unusual albums of piano and drum music which take along time to sink in! Bill finally found himself his perfect outlet for both his interests - jazz and melodic percussion - in Earthworks which he formed with Django Bates and Iain Bellamy. The band’s two albums: Earthworks and Dig? Are both thoroughly recommended. During the same period. Bill also became involved with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and more recently still, with the reformed Yes on their recent Union album and tour.
If you feel interested in Bill’s work then the album/CD Masterstrokes is recommended. It has a good selection of tracks recorded by Bruford and a couple of the improvised pieces with Patrick Moraz. Apart from the fairly awful Gothic 17 there is plenty that readers of TWR will find interesting, especially if you like Brand X.