Bill Bruford

Stamping Ground: Bill Bruford's Earthworks Live

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Even by the standards set on the previous three studio CDs by his band Earthworks, drummer Bill Bruford hits on all cylinders on the live 1994 release Stamping Ground. The music is practically uncategorizable, as Bruford and bassist Tim Harries set a muscular pace for saxophonist Iain Ballamy and keyboardist/horn player Django Bates on the serpentining opener "Nerve." "Up North" slows the pace and showcases Ballamy's melodic sensibilities, then the lengthier workouts begin. "A Stone's Throw" features a duet intro between Ballamy and Bruford (on percussion), then the saxophonist sways over the acoustic bassline of Harries and the embellishments of Bruford. The drummer toyed with the primary use of electronic drums on Earthworks releases in the 1980s, but reverts to a more acoustic format here -- yet the intro to the nine-minute "Pilgrim's Way" still shows the melodic possibilities of Bruford's creative electric "chordal drums." Bates' "Emotional Shirt" blends classical sensibilities with a shuffling jazz/fusion rhythmic pattern; Ballamy's "It Needn't End in Tears" is a stately ballad spotlighting the saxophonist's lyrical playing, and "All Heaven Broke Loose" lives up to its title with a sensitive intro and explosive buildup. Bates' brooding, seven-minute "Candles Still Flicker in Romania's Dark" is the official finale, but its subtitled, 11-minute part two ("Bridge of Inhibition") provides the exhilarating climax. Bruford's chordal patterns sound practically symphonic amid this epic's starts and stops -- further proof of the originality of one of the most musical drummers of all-time. Like all great live releases, Stamping Ground makes you wish you had been there.

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