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Bill Bruford's Earthworks

Random Acts of Happiness

Review by Gary Hill

This live disc from Bill Bruford’s Earthworks is quite a tasty one. For those not familiar with the group, let me just say this is pure jazz. I wouldn’t even consider it fusion. It is included in the progressive rock section purely because Bruford is a progressive rock musician, not because the music falls into that category. Now, all that said, this is great music. It’s delivered in style and all the musicians here are excellent players. It should also be noted that I’ve previously reviewed the second track here on a compilation. For the sake of consistency the individual review of that piece was adapted from that review.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
My Heart Declares A Holiday
I love the oddly timed vibe that opens this. Sax creates some odd textures at first. As the cut grows out from there it works to more of a mainstream jazz or fusion sound. This thing continues to build, turning into some smoking hot musical adventures as it continues. It drops way down to just piano and percussion after a while, though. The drums are exploratory. The cut eventually works its way back to the type of music that we heard before to continue. That motif holds it to the end.
White Knuckle Wedding
This cut starts with percussion that reminds me of “Thela Hun Gingeet.” They take this into a somewhat freeform, but still cohesive and rather “groove oriented” jazz jam from there. It makes its way through a number of changes and alterations in a killer arrangement that has shades of mellower and more intense music. There’s a great section that’s more stripped down and laden with middle Eastern musical flavors. It feels like something out of a movie soundtrack, but gets quite involved as the percussion takes control.
Turn and Return
This comes in as a pretty and melodic jazz ballad type of number. It evolves in this general format for a time and then we get a piano solo. From there it moves back out into the central musical themes and continues with a new intensity. 
Tramontana
Bass leads this off and the rest of the group join in an energetic jazz arrangement. While nothing changes in a quick or shocking way, this is gradually brought up into one of the most powerful instrumental journeys of the whole set. There’s an accompanied piano solo later and the composition again turns into an incendiary piece of jazz jamming as this winds through. There’s also an accompanied percussion solo as this tasty number continues. It moves way down later first for a sax solo and then a piano one. They build it out into a more mellow motif from there, but gradually turn the heat back up again. 
Bajo Del Sol
There’s an extended clarinet solo to open this up and from there they fire out into another killer jazz jam. As the title would indicate, this has some hints of Latin sounds here and there. Each musician puts in a scorching performance, but it’s obvious that the sum is more important to these guys than the parts because they never lose sight of the “song”. They take us through a number of moods and modes, but never lose their footing or goal. We get a tasty and rather extended percussion solo that ends the piece.
Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part 1)
This is a fairly traditional sounding and very melodic and pretty jazz instrumental. There are some great solo segments – with each player contributing some exceptional work. It’s one of the mellower compositions here, but still manages to bring some fire. It’s quite a pretty piece of music. 
Modern Folk
Percussion rises up here and then piano joins as they lay down the beginnings of this jazz romp. The other instrumentation joins and we’re off on a potent musical journey once more. This is another solid piece and reminds me in some ways of a more dramatically timed version of the types of sounds we got in the last number.  There are some great examples of jazz soloing in this piece and it’s another that just keeps the tradition of more and more great music going. 
With Friends Like These...
Bruford gives us a tasty unaccompanied percussion solo here.
Speaking With Wooden Tongues
Bill Bruford’s percussion leads us out here, but from there we get a more modern sounding jazz piece that makes its way through several changes and alterations and variations. It’s pretty and quite tasty with some drama and surprises here and there. While I wouldn’t say this gets chaotic, it borders on reckless abandon here and there.
One Of A Kind (Part 1)
The first part of this two-fer, this track establishes the musical motifs to carry us through. It’s energized and powerful jazz that has a great tone and groove to it. This section’s only a little over two minutes in length. 
One Of A Kind (Part 2)
This movement (as one might guess) comes straight out of the last and continues the musical themes. For my money there are some moments here that lean towards classical music, though.
Blues For Little Joe
Listed as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of the CD, the first portion of this is a piano solo. As the other instruments join they launch out into another killer jazz instrumental. At times this one reminds me of some of the music from West Side Story. It’s a killer old school jazz jam. The piano returns as a solo instrument here and there throughout the course of this and it gets pretty intense.

 

 
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