Echo Location: Bill Bruford Redux

Bill Bruford brings Plays Taps to Progressive Rock.

((((( You can hear an audio version of this blog, with music )))))

Close to the Edge No one gives the rock drummer much attention, unless he happens to be the signature progressive rock drummer of the last 4 decades. That’s the case with Bill Bruford, who played in three incarnations of King Crimson and had stints in UK, Gong, the Bruford Band and Earthworks. We first heard of Bill when he was a member of Yes, recording on all their albums up through Close to the Edge.

As I reported in the Echoes Blog a few weeks ago, Bill Bruford, born in 1949, has retired. He tells his story in a new book, Bill Bruford: The Autobiography. We interviewed Bill a few weeks ago and Echoes listeners got to hear that on the air.  You can hear it on the Echoes Bill Bruford Podcast.

Bill Bruford: The Autobiography is a trenchant look at life as a musician that’s light on musical explanations and heavy on trials and tribulations. He has that uniquely British ability to be simultaneously self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing, all while being erudite and charming. He came to renown with Yes, but at the height of their popularity, he left them for the edgier King Crimson

Bill Bruford: I thought they were much hipper. I thought the sound of the group was much filthier, much more grown up, much more X-rated, you know. And I always wanted to be in King Crimson. I also thought Yes was a very light weight group.

There’s not much sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll in the Bruford autobiography but there are blistering anecdotes about King Crimson founder Robert Fripp, always tardy Yes-bassist Chris Squire, and getting the boot from his own band, UK. But Bill Bruford spends much of his book talking about the music that always ignited his passion, jazz.

Buhaina's Delight BB: Where I got the magic of drumming from was Art Blakey. Just watching guys like that on television who had such command and authority from a drum set. The drummer was in control from the back by some mysterious series of commands that I did not really understand as a 13-year-old. I still do not understand it.  [laughs sardonically] I do now. Now I understand.

Bill Bruford’s cerebral jazz band, Earthworks, has been his true passion for the last 20 years and he has no nostalgia at all for the heyday of progressive rock.

Bill Bruford: Progressive rock was a genuinely interesting phase of popular music. I don’t think it lasted forever. I think it had a great time from about ’68 to 1975. After that I did not think there was much to it and it was time to move on. I am very unsentimental.

Bill Bruford has moved on and out. He’s just released two anthologies of his solo work,Winterfold Collection 1978-1986 and the Summerfold Collection 1987-2008. His book is, Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, published by Jawbone Press. This has been an Echo Location, soundings for new music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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