Bill Bruford grew up with jazz. As an amateur drummer in the 1960s, and after a handful of lessons from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, he began his professional career in 1968. He was a guiding light in the so-called British “Art Rock” movement, touring internationally with Yes and King Crimson from 1968-74. There then followed several years spent observing and participating in the music making processes of, among others, Gong, National Health, Genesis and U.K., until Bill felt ready to write and perform his own music with his own band Bruford, recording four albums from 1977-80.
It was, however, the reconstituted King Crimson of 1980-84 that provided the vehicle for his revolutionary use of electronics in developing the melodic side of percussion. Following an interim two year/two album stint improvising on acoustic piano and drums with Patrick Moraz, Bruford formed his electro-acoustic jazz group Earthworks in 1986, with Django Bates and Iain Ballamy, specifically to continue this work on melody from the drum set, but now in a jazz context.
Earthworks, the group’s first offering in 1987, was named the “third best jazz album of the year” by America’s USA Today; then came Dig? (1989), All Heaven Broke Loose (1991), and the summer 1994 Live set, Stamping Ground.
King Crimson again proved itself a veritable percussion think-tank when it launched the double-rhythm team of Bruford and Pat Mastelotto in the 1994 double-trio incarnation. Through late 1994 and 1995, the band toured the world, giving 120 concerts, and producing studio and live CDs documenting its fresh and innovative use of two drummers. 1996 saw further King Crimson concerts, and the production of a CD Rom encapsulating Bruford’s approach, in a tri-format combination of audio and MIDI/digital data, entitled Packet of 3.
In between all this, Bill also found time to record and/or tour with Kazumi Watanabe, David Torn, The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Akira Inoue, Al Di Meola, Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe, the Buddy Rich Orchestra, Tony Levin, Pete Lockett and his old firm Yes amongst others. He continued his work as an active clinician with a series of clinics in Europe and America in 1993, culminating in his highly acclaimed appearance at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention at Columbus, Ohio in November. In 1990, the readers of Modern Drummer Magazine voted him into that magazine’s Hall of Fame.