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Bill Bruford's career is like his drumming sound -- inimitable. Known for his ringing metal snare drum, crisp cymbal work, and knack for complex time signatures, a young Bruford came to prominence in the late '60s with Yes. The drummer completed his British art rock trilogy by briefly joining Genesis in the 1970s and spending a quarter-century with King Crimson through the late '90s. In between King Crimson dates, Bruford led a dazzling self-titled jazz fusion solo band from 1978 to 1980. Featuring guitarist Allan Holdsworth (replaced after two albums by "the unknown" John Clark), bassist Jeff Berlin, and keyboardist Dave Stewart, the group issued four albums: Feels Good to Me (1978), One of a Kind (1979), The Bruford Tapes (1980), and Gradually Going Tornado (1980). And even as he led his visionary jazz band Bill Bruford's Earthworks, he maintained a career as a session drummer (with artists like guitarists Al DiMeola and David Torn, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and keyboardist Patrick Moraz).
During one of King Crimson leader Robert Fripp's several lineup-shifting hiatuses in Bruford's 1972-1997 tenure, the drummer formed his self-titled Earthworks band in 1986. On the group's 1987 Earthworks debut album, Bruford often used electric Simmons drums to contrast acoustic horn players Iain Ballamy and Django Bates and upright bassist Mick Hutton, achieving the opposite of the standard lineup where drums are the only acoustic instrument. Subsequent releases like 1989's Dig? and 1991's All Heaven Broke Loose continued this forward-thinking trend, blending acoustic and electric instrumentation and jazz ideology with classical undertones. But by 1993's live Stamping Ground, Bruford had replaced Hutton with electric/acoustic bassist Tim Harries and was using keyboard-pitched electric chordal drums, the combined result being a more muscular and fuller sound.
Bruford continued recording and touring with King Crimson through 1997, releasing the Earthworks compilation Heavenly Bodies just as he quit the venerable rock band with which he'd had his longest tenure. It would prove to be a transitional year, as Bruford recorded a jazz chamber trio solo CD called If Summer Had Its Ghosts with legendary jazz figures Ralph Towner (guitar/piano) and Eddie Gomez (acoustic bass). Between explorative electric recordings with bassist and fellow King Crimson alum Tony Levin, Bruford kept Earthworks closer to the chamber jazz mode on the 1999 CD A Part, and Yet Apart. Likewise, the lineup of Bruford, saxophonist Patrick Clahar, pianist Steve Hamilton, and bassist Mark Hodgson started the new millennium with the 2001 CD The Sound of Surprise, an outstanding blend of jazz tradition and forward-thinking transition. This lineup was also responsible for the 2002 live album Footloose and Fancy Free and Footloose in New York City, a live DVD released the following year.
Reedman Tim Garland later replaced Clahar, and the band went on to release the live album Random Acts of Happiness in 2004. Recorded at New York City's Iridium jazz club, 2006's Earthworks Underground Orchestra was not an album by the Earthworks band per se, but rather an exploration of Earthworks repertoire performed by Bruford along with Garland and a New York version of the latter's Underground Orchestra (and including appearances by trombonist Robin Eubanks on two tracks). During Earthworks' last several years, the group underwent additional personnel changes and toured in the U.K., Europe, and Asia, and also appeared in New York City. Earthworks' final show took place in the summer of 2008 at Ronnie Scott's in London, and at the start of the following year Bruford announced a formal end to the group -- as well as his own retirement from public performances.
William Scott "Bill" Bruford (born 17 May 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent) is an English drummer, percussionist, composer, producer, and record label owner. 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 about music. His autobiography, Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, was published in early 2009.
He began playing the drums when he was thirteen, and was influenced by jazz drumming, which manifested itself on early Yes albums and remained an influence on his style throughout his career. 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.
Bruford was born in 1949, in Sevenoaks, Kent, the third child of Betty and John Bruford, a veterinary surgeon. He was educated at Tonbridge School.
Bruford chose to play drums because after watching American jazz drummers of the 1960s on BBC TV. His sister then gave him a pair of brushes as a present. He later took a few lessons - while still attending Public School - from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic.
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.
Bruford's pre-Yes bands included The Breed (1966–67), a Sevenoaks-based r'n'b/soul band which included future Flash bassist Ray Bennett, future Canned Rock singer/guitarist Doug Kennard and guitarist Stu Murray (since Bruford was at boarding school and not available for all gigs, the band occasionally used another drummer, Pete Skinner, and sometimes both), a short-lived band named The Noise (1967) with whom he gigged in Italy, and Savoy Brown (1968), his first professional engagement - which lasted all of three gigs.
Most of the early members of Yes all lived in the same house. They were almost confined to the property, because concert bookings came at short notice, so leaving the house for a few hours was their only freedom from the confines of the band. Bruford likened the lifestyle to that of a fireman.
Although seemingly a close-knit band, Bruford remembers the whole era as being very argumentative, and hot blooded. There was a constant state of friction between Bruford, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson, all three of whom were from totally different social backgrounds. Bruford admitted that he found it hard to understand Anderson's northern English accent, and Anderson's penchant for speaking in strange sentences that nobody could understand, which later influenced Yes' lyrics. Bruford also had to contend with Squire's slow and deliberate style of writing his bass lines, being on time for recording sessions, or just getting ready to leave for shows. These personality traits amongst the three would be a foundation for Bill's eventual exit from the group in 1972.
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 whisky and Coke.
Bruford, by 1972, had felt that Yes had come as far as it could, or at least as far as he could contribute to it. He didn't want to spend what he felt was an inordinate amount of time in the studio debating chords and producing records that he felt would only be in the shadow of Close To The Edge. In addition, his relationship with bassist Chris Squire was strained. He later commented, "Chris is, I'm sure, a wonderful guy. But in those days he was also very, very late. For all appointments and departures and arrivals and sound checks and anything. That, in a way, is the most grievous form of offense that one musician can visit upon another... I was a hot-blooded guy back then and I'd had enough of waiting for him, really." 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.
King Crimson 
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". 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 lots of compositions over the years, albeit slowly.
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.
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, as a 3-piece (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) King Crimson recorded Red in July 1974. After the release of Red in September, Fripp decided to disband King Crimson.
Roy Harper 
In 1975, Bruford played drums on the majority of Roy Harper's HQ, in addition to the aforementioned work on Fish Out of Water.
Genesis live 
Bruford also spent six months touring with Genesis in 1976, recordings from which 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 
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), with 'the unknown' John Clark replacing Holdsworth on guitar.
The group's final studio album Gradually Going Tornado continued this lineup with bass player Berlin providing vocals on some songs. Backing vocals were provided by Canterbury scene stalwarts Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons.
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 former Yes pianist Patrick Moraz, who had played 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 
Bruford was part of a newly formed King Crimson again in 1981 with a different lineup, 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 
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.
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 
King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s lineup along with Trey Gunn on Warr guitars and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. This so-called 'double trio' configuration recorded one full-length album, 1995's THRAK, as well as experimenting with the ProjeKcts, before Levin and Bruford left the band. Bruford's reason for abandoning the double trio was his frustration with rehearsals, which he felt weren't going anywhere.
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 reemerged 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 continues 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 has been his primary focus in recent years, 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."
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).
Recent work 
With Earthworks put on hold in 2007 (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, although he has since played live with Ann Bailey's Soul House. 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.
Abortive projects 
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..!".
In 1990, the readers of Modern Drummer Magazine voted him into that magazine's Hall of Fame.