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Bruford heads to the middle of the road

The Sound of Surprise
The Sound of Surprise
By Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Discipline Global Mobile: 2001

This review first appeared in the May 20, 2001 edition of the American Reporter.

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.