Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Random Acts of Happiness

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Bill Bruford's reputation might lie on his past work with prog rock bands like Yes and King Crimson, but these days he's completely at home in the amorphous world of modern jazz. This live album shows that he and his band have developed their own strong sound, centered around the sax, flute, and bass clarinet work of the remarkably talented Tim Garland and the piano of Steve Hamilton, who play off and support each other perfectly (just listen to their work on "White Knuckle Wedding," for instance). That's not to lessen the impact of bassist Mark Hodgson and Bruford himself. All four parts of the quartet interlock vitally. At times they sound fairly mainstream and smooth, as on "Tra Montana," and melody is always at the core of what they do. But they're not afraid to push the edges, as on "Modern Folk," with its sharp changes, both in key and rhythm. Bruford also uses Polynesian log drums, sparingly but to great effect, especially on "Speaking With Wooden Tongues." The bonus track, "Blues for Little Joe" is also well-worth hearing: it's a tortuous, exciting ride that highlights the skills of each member in the demands it makes, and a perfect end to an accomplished, distinctive album.

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