Bruford heads to the middle of the road
Having worked with everyone from '60s prog-rock pioneers Yes and King Crimson to avant-garde jazz guitarists Alan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola, drummer Bill Bruford has gained a reputation as one of the more out-there stickmen working.
So his new album with his longtime band, Earthworks, "The Sound of Surprise," is most surprising for its lack of surprises.
Not a bad album by any stretch, "Surprise" is instead a remarkably straight-ahead mainstream jazz album. Featuring the tight saxophone work of Patrick Clahar, and the solid piano of Steve Hamilton, Earthworks is more closely aligned to the '60s combos of Cannonball Adderley than to any of the above artists with whom Bruford has played.
The excitement of Earthworks comes not from odd modalities or unusual chord changes, but rather from passionate playing. The interplay between Clahar and Hamilton lends most of the album a gorgeous tension, while Bruford and bassist Mark Hodgson back the two soloists with a changing variety of rhythms that always swing.
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