Click Speech Bubble Below To Expand/Collapse Timeline
Born, son and third child of veterinary surgeon John William Bruford, in Sevenoaks, Kent.
Asks for, and gets, first drum-kit, red sparkle, 17 guineas, indeterminate make.
Practice begins by listening to and playing along with the UK jazz of the day; Barber, Ball, and Bilk.
Jazz 625 on BBC TV broadcasts immaculately recorded concerts of all the great US modern jazz stars of the day, eagerly devoured.
Attends Tonbridge School; first pair of brushes given to him by his sister as a birthday present.
Increasingly under the sway of older jazz-loving pupils, begins serious study of jazz drums and vibes.
Intermittent music tuition from George Cooper, head of the school’s woodwinds, and Lou Pocock, percussionist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the school’s military Corps of Drums.
With effectively no amateur or semi-professional experience whatever, decides, on January 1st, to dedicate his gap-year between school and University to finding work as a full-time player in the rapidly expanding music industry.
After several false starts, co-founds Yes with Jon Anderson and Chris Squire following a response to an advertisement in the Melody Maker.
In October, he leaves Yes to resume his studies at Leeds University in Economics and Sociology.
Re-joins temporarily for the Cream Farewell Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in November, but shortly afterwards withdraws formally from the University, to pursue a fulltime career as a musician.
Plays 187 shows with Yes at an average salary of £17 per week.
First album, “Yes” released.
“Time and a Word” released.
“The Yes Album” is released, and following a postal strike and the growing relationship between the band’s new manager Brian Lane and the embryonic tycoon Richard Branson of Virgin Records, the long anticipated break-through is achieved.
Yes / King Crimson
“Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” both consolidate and export the success to America, but both titles indicates the rocky state of the band’s internal relationships amidst more or less continual bickering as to how to proceed.
“Fragile” reaches number 5 in the Billboard Chart on April 1st.
Fuelled by exhaustion, too much coffee, and in incurable romanticism, Bruford leaves the group, to general all-round astonishment.
Joins King Crimson. “Close to the Edge” reaches number 4 in the US in October.
1973 Marries Carolyn inbetween King Crimson’s U.S. tours.
“Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” released; Jamie Muir leaves the group.
King Crimson / Gong
“Starless and Bible Black” released, and is followed up with 50 dates in the spring and summer.
Three tortuous weeks in July in Olympic Studios, South-West London, produces “Red”.
The band breaks up in September.
Jumping at the first thing that comes into view, Bill is seconded temporarily into the Anglo-French group Gong
King Crimson / National Health / Roy Harper
Continues to gain experience in session work with Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Pavlov’s Dog, National Health and Roy Harper, among others; these records generally reaching the lower part of the Top 30 album chart.
Father dies on September 3.
King Crimson releases “Live in the USA”
Having played percussion to Phil Collins’ drums in Brand X, joins Genesis to enable the increasingly confident Collins to move up front to replace the departed Peter Gabriel.
Unused to his position as “ hired help”, and keen to get started making his own records, Bruford behaves badly, sniping critically and impotently from the side-lines.
The opening night of a five day run at Hammersmith Odeon in London, the longest run for any band in that building, marks Bill’s 1000th concert.
Bruford / UK
Son Alex born, July 31st.
Apart from a pub gig and one BBC TV show with his own group, the 16 months between December 1976 and April 1978 pass without any other live performances.
The hurdle of the first album “Feels Good To Me” is negotiated successfully at Trident in London.
“ UK” is founded by John Wetton who invites Bill, and suggests they poach Eddie Jobson from Frank Zappa. Sensing this will lead too far into the realm of pop music, Bill suggests Allan Holdsworth as fourth member and counter-weight, and an album is cut at Trident in November.
Bruford / UK
January 6th, and Bill’s first album is released to generally favourable reviews. By Spring however, this is eclipsed by the general roar and din of the “UK” express train.
The album was released in April, with a UK tour and much talk of “supergroups”, but it is clear that, as the thrust from considerable record company investment kicks in, it is America that everyone is aiming for.
With Holdsworth already unhappy, the long summer tour booked for the US is bound to be lumpy.
Following a chaotic free concert at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, Wetton “fires” Bruford and Holdsworth, but the band limps on to its last gig in West Hartford, CT. on October 8th. A short, fiery furnace.
A glutton for punishment, Bill is back at Trident in January with fresh music for his second album, this to be all instrumental, and his first cover feature in Modern Drummer magazine. Excellent results are squeezed from the, by now, permanently unhappy but astonishingly gifted Holdsworth.
Again, with remarkable speed, “One of a Kind” is in the shops, and the band on tour by May, with dates in the UK and France. Holdsworth departs on the eve of the French leg, and John Clarke deps at extremely short notice. This to be the last French tour of any substance of Bill’s career.
The summer, again, is spent in the US; the NYC date is covered in the New York Times by Robert Palmer. Holly Anne Bruford is born on September 23rd , and with the manic energy of the dangerously unstable, Bill books Surrey Sound in Leatherhead for late October to record his band’s third album under the guidance of American Weather Report producer Ron Malo.
Bruford / King Crimson
“Gradually Going Tornado” released in February, and a combined Spring UK tour with Brand X. Somewhere in all this Bill and Carolyn, with two babes in arms, move out to the Surrey hills and High Broom, which is in need of substantial refurbishment.
If Bill is not tiring , his wife is, and the subsequent two month US tour in the blazing heatwave in the Mid-West and South is all but too much. Undermining phone calls to Carolyn from E.G. Management, discussing the band’s precarious financial position, only add fuel to the fire in Bill’s absence.
By September, the band is over.
E.G. Management’s determined and successful efforts to undermine the Bruford band were, it transpires, in the greater interest of reforming King Crimson. Wary about another bout with Fripp, this unfolding plan nevertheless comes as a welcome relief to the exhausting rigours of band-leading. Within days of reconvening, Fripp is undermining the project in general, and Bruford in particular, with his “diary” to Musician magazine.
Following a two week tour as “Discipline” to prepare new music, the band records at Island Studios in May.
The startling new techniques and styles mark a big departure from the preconceived notion of a Crimson album, but a 44 date tour through the autumn to support the record, now called “Discipline”, meets with general support by media and fans.
Records a drum instructional tape for Axis Video called “Bruford and the Beat” in New York.
Painful King Crimson rehearsals follow in the Garment District, and the band road-tests the results with more US and UK road work before recording the difficult follow-up album at Odyssey in London. Tea-breaks are taken to the unbelievable televised back-drop of a UK Taskforce going to reclaim the Falkland Islands from Argentina.
The first of several crises between Fripp and various band members, (on this album, Belew), are barely weathered, and the band tours to support “Beat” through the summer, first in the US, then in a co-headline European tour with Roxy Music. Buoyed by the support of Tama drums, accepts an 8 date October clinic tour in the US with Bill Reim, the company’s representative.
Spring passes uneventfully with sporadic studio work for Lucas Films, Al Di Meola, Simon Darlow and others, until King Crimson reconvenes at Marcus Studios in London for what is to be the last album for a while. Work starts on “Three of a Perfect Pair” in June, but an edgy mistrust prevails, and the band leave it to be finished at Bearsville in Woodstock NY in November.
Meanwhile, Bill strikes up a partnership with Swiss pianist Patrick Moraz who has become a neighbour in the Surrey Hills. The idea is an improvising small intelligent unit of two, just piano and drums, that should be able to strike fast and profitably. The two do a late summer US tour, before cutting a “live” album “Music for Piano and Drums” at Phil Manzanera’s studio in Chertsey, Surrey, in a bid to find their way back, however hesitantly, to listening, and improvisation, and although its not mentioned, in Bill’s case, to jazz.
King Crimson / Moraz-Bruford
Bill’s mother dies unexpectedly, while staying in America.
Work commitments are mercifully light until the Spring, when Moraz – Bruford does some European dates prior to the lengthy final King Crimson tour which takes in the mid-West and Japan, before crossing the US again from West to East, finishing at the Spectrum in Montreal for two dates on July 10th and 11th. The following day Fripp breaks the band up, but the sad occasion is ameliorated somewhat by the cracking live CD, in Bill’s opinion some of the best playing that band ever recorded, eventually released 14 years later in 1998 as “Absent Lovers”.
Moraz-Bruford reconvenes for the Fall.
With Crimson having departed the scene again, there is more time to devote to the piano and drums duo.
Work starts in Geneva on “Flags”, but the addition of electronic keyboards seems to dilute the purpose of the group.
This, together with his partners’ increasingly erratic behaviour, seem to indicate to Bill that the group will soon have served its purpose.
Short on more meaningful work, Bill accepts a clinic tour with Tama Drums in November.
A year of short sessions and concerts with a number of employers, mostly forgettable, with the notable exception of David Torn. With Tony Levin and Mark Isham, the group record “Cloud About Mercury” at Audio International in London for the great Manfred Eicher of E.C.M..
Meanwhile, Bruford recruits three young players from the UK Jazz scene; Django Bates, the local, Guildford-based Iain Ballamy, and Mick Hutton. As the Bill Bruford Quartet, they rehearse at Django’s with full electronic drum rig, and ice on the inside of the windows, and set out for their first gig in Japan.
EG Records, who have known Bill and his music for some thirteen years, demand, and get, a demo session of the group before they will eventually fund an album.
John William Lawrance Bruford born September 9th.
In October, following a week at Terminal 24 in London, the group completes its first eponymous album, “Earthworks”.
A February German club tour with the Torn group, now with Mick Karn on bass, introduces Bill to a level of work-comfortable, low stress, satisfactorily paid that he was previously unaware existed. Seems you don’t have to have a manager after all. Reduction of costs will clearly be the key to this jazz thing, but it is to be a while yet before he can reprogramme himself away from the overheads that came too easily with his past background.
The year is divided between the well-received Earthworks in the UK and US, Kazumi Watanabe in Japan, Torn’s group in the US, and completed with a 22 date German tour for Earthworks.
At 101 dates, it is Bill’s busiest year since 1973.
A further CD for Kazumi Watanabe is recorded with Bill on the long-promised, state-of-the-art kit from Simmons, which, like all kits from that brilliant designer, immediately proves problematic.
Earthworks tour through the summer, with the low spot at Bergen University in Norway when Ballamy and Hutton do their best to kill each other. The tour is eventually abandoned, the West-Coast US leg cancelled, due to Ballamy’s young girlfriend, Jess, having developed cancer. Ballamy flies home from Minneapolis, to be married, and then widowed, within a week..
Much of the Fall is spent in exasperating programming of the electronic drum equipment prior to sessions on Earthworks second album “Dig?”, eventually recorded in Cornwall in November.
Earthworks I / ABWH
Jon Anderson, vocalist from Yes, had visited innocently and socially in the previous Fall, and suggested Bill work on Jon’s upcoming album. Seemed innocent enough, but at the airport on the way to Air Studios, Montserrat, the presence of Wakeman, Howe, and manager Brian Lane all point to the looming, and dreaded, reunion. The album sounds good, the band accede to Bill’s request for Tony Levin on bass instead of Squire, finally agree a name, (Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe) and following a 12-date European tour for Earthworks in June, A.B.W.H. depart for a six week summer US tour, continuing on into Europe in the Fall. Bill basks in the vicarious pleasure of people making a fuss, and tries to pretend it makes up for the guilt of departure from home on this extended package holiday.
The applause at the Spectrum, Philadelphia, on August 3rd is deafening, literally louder than the band.
A.B.W.H. continues on the road in Japan and America, but the band, which is just finding its musical legs and the beginnings of an identity distinct from its distinguished parentage, is about to succumb to the expected management and record- company idiocy. It is deemed that the “European Yes” should be sired with the “Californian Yes” in an arranged marriage, which, goes the thinking, will double the sales. Yes? Well, no, actually. The European Yes find their initially promising second album sessions in Miraval, France, hi-jacked by Roy Lott at Arista, who wings the tapes to Los Angeles for the Californian Yes to add its doubtful contribution.
This Frankenstein monster is fixed, sampled, quantised and generally massaged into life with every conceivable studio gimmick and an army of session musicians. The now purposeless sessions in France turn into “Une Grande Bouffe”, a gluttony to relieve the boredom as empty day follows empty day. Bill puts on weight and plans an escape. As May turns into June, there are Earthworks dates to be fulfilled as merciful relief. This miserable project finally grinds to a conclusion in the late summer, long after Bill lost any interest, and he finally escapes to a refreshing US tour with Earthworks, through October, in support of “Dig?”.
Modern Drummer votes Bill into their Hall of Fame.
Earthworks I / Yes
A cold January in central Germany recording Earthworks’ third CD, with friend David Torn, producing. Work starts, almost to the hour, that the “100 hour” First Gulf War starts, and concludes, almost to the hour, that it ends. There can be no title other than “All Heaven Broke Loose”. A difficult album, and the beginning of a loss of confidence that begins to dog Bill from now on.
Two thousand gigs completed on 16 January ’91.
As if sleep-walking, Bill is astonished to find he has re-joined the Yes behemoth, with 8 musicians – the entire cast of “Dallas” re-united. It is ghastly, macabre, and over-blown, but also un-missable.
At Madison Square Gardens on 15 June ’91, the world’s most expensive drum-kit, $40,000 worth of two Simmons SDX units in tandem, stalls completely, and Bill performs a humiliating drum “duet” on acoustic hi-hat, snare, and cymbal opposite the thundering Alan White.
After four months, it’s too much. The tour was presumably in support of some album or another, but it’s not one that Bill ever played again, once recorded.
Relief, again, in Earthworks concerts in Europe and Japan as the leaves turn and Fall descends.
Earthworks 1 / Yes
A last Yes trip to Japan in March is preceded by Earthworks German dates.
In a German hotel room Bill takes a call from manager Mark Fenwick to the effect that Alan White has been detained by the Japanese authorities, and Bill may have to play the show, including all Alan’s material, on his own. A panicky amount of argument, listening to tapes, and wriggling, turns out to be unnecessary, as White appears on time at the first gig, a nasty moment narrowly averted.
Earthworks reconvenes in North America immediately after Japan, and again in July for the trans-Canada Jazz festivals. These trips are only marginally unprofitable, but their frequency is beginning to rack up a substantial bill at E.G. Management.
With Yes out of the way, Earthworks continues full steam with an eighteen date trip to Germany, again, rounded off with an excellent Jazz Café in London, well-attended by a strong contingent of local friends up from Surrey.
Django Bates’ career, meanwhile, has been taking off, and increasingly it is becoming apparent that Earthworks is not offering enough to hold him, and it isn’t.
No matter how seductive, the rigidity of the digital drums militates against the suppleness and flexibility required for jazz performance, and the band has reverted to being a rock group with some jazz musicians in it.
The Jazz Café feels like the end. There is a last, stiff, uncomfortable date in September, but the Jazz Café is the spiritual end of the first edition of Earthworks.
The rest of the year is fleshed out with workshops and clinics in Poland and America, an awkward Orchestral Yes CD recorded in London, and ends with an utterly humiliating morning appearance on ABC TV’s Cathy Lee and Regis Show in New York, with Bill, Steve Howe and a forgotten bass player attempting to play “Roundabout” to promote “The Symphonic Music of Yes” to 9 million American housewives. Phone calls from more legitimate members of the band suggest the other musicians are not amused.
A life-line appears, once again, in the shape of Robert Fripp, talking, very conditionally, about a new King Crimson. This is something Bill feels he needs, and the urgency of his December letter to Fripp, flattering, and accepting of all conditions, communicates that need to his old partner. Accordingly, a K.C. of some description will meet in the New Year at Bill’s house.
As part of the pre-nuptial agreement with Fripp, Bill renounces both EG Management, whom he promises to leave, and any pretence towards artistic democracy in the group, and Crimson, now a “double trio”, duly de-camps to Woodstock, New York, to record an E.P., “Vroom”.
As part of his leaving present, E.G. hands Bill an £11,000 bill for his efforts with Earthworks to date. Clearly if there is to be a second edition, it will have to be re-thought financially.
Sessions with the Buddy Rich Big Band, Joe Hisaishi, and Keyfax Software follow in the summer, and the new Crimson departs for almost three weeks of wonderful concerts to a delirious crowd in Buenos Aires in the autumn. News of the band’s presence in the city spreads by word of mouth, and the more concerts it does, the longer it could stay. Like “Cats”.
In November, the full scale “Thrak” is recorded at Real World, back in the UK. An abysmal headphone mix tests the musicians’ professionalism, but the CD gets made.
Modern Drummer offer a cover story on Bill and Pat Mastelotto.
Having settled into “character” in Crimson, Bill playing Elvin Jones to Pat Mastelotto’s Ringo Starr, the two begin an artistically fruitful collaboration over a two month European and American tour in May and June.
With Pat connecting the band to an audience with the steady entry-level pulse, Bill is free to move within and around that, metrically and timbrally. Wheels within wheels, large slow cogs and small fast ones, wood to metal, metal to wood. Its unlikely that US Theatres have had such an imaginative rock percussion section, or likely will in the future.
A second leg in the Fall in Japan and the US is equally well received, but domestically the strain is beginning to tell, Carolyn’s patience exhausted. The only thought after this 9 week tour, with five morale-breaking days off in San Francisco, is “Never again”.
One of those 10 day groups meets for a refreshing and short tour of Holland. The “World Percussion Ensemble”; Chad Wackerman, Luis Conte, Doudou N’Daiye Rose, and Bill, flowers briefly.
A similarly short tour of Poland with Polish musicians follows, before return to active service, once again, with the Crimsons. The band plays throughout the summer in Europe, Mexico and the US. Now fully ensconced behind Perspex screens, and tragically separated from the audience, Bill suffers many nights of playing to only himself, as the angle of his screens turns it into one giant mirror, through which an audience can dimly be perceived, but with nothing like the sharp focus of the image of himself. Patience can be stretched no further. By the penultimate gig, he is experiencing sharp pains in the left wrist on every stroke. A Philadelphia hand surgeon confirms the next day that nothing is broken or severely damaged, and what turns out to be Bill’s final gig with King Crimson is played out with packs of ice, and through a fog of painkillers.
King Crimson / Earthworks II
A highly productive February produces two CDs; the first, a chamber–jazz outing with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez, “If Summer Had its Ghosts”, suffers from no rehearsal and a first time reading of charts, but infuses Bill with confidence. In the afterglow, and at the same upstate New York studio, Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (B.L.U.E), is born.
Drained, Bill returns to the UK for the beginning of the longest professional drought in his career, which is to see only 12 gigs in the next year.
Disagreeable and expensive Crimson rehearsals begin in Nashville – six people and crew mill about aimlessly with zero artistic focus for an endless 10 days. Patience exhausted on all sides, malevolence and wilful goading ensure that the yawning chasm between Bill and Robert Fripp, now unable to agree even on where to eat dinner, is not about to close anytime soon. The atmosphere is poisonous. Relief as the rehearsals conclude, even as it becomes apparent that after 25 years, Bill and Robert are unlikely to attempt music-making together again.
Back at the Red Lion in Twickenham in November, Bill asks a brilliant young Scottish pianist, Steve Hamilton, to do some transcriptions for him.
The second edition of Earthworks, as acoustic as possible, heads out on a February European tour with a fresh book of tunes written largely by Bill. With Hamilton, Geoff Gascoigne, and Patrick Clahar, and alternating with B.L.U.E. dates in Japan and America, the new Earthworks plays in the material prior to a relatively painless 3-day session at Livingston Studios in North London.
With the lumbering Crimson firmly behind him, Bill covers a lot of miles with the wind in his sails. But the industry is changing rapidly, and the working milieu in which the creative musician exists is about to change forever, with the onset of the website, email, downloading of music, and Sibelius. Bill starts a diary, just as the barest record of the astonishing complexity of dovetailing domestic and professional life. What doesn’t kill you, he hopes, strengthens you.
In January the new band, gaining confidence, visits California, where Don Heckman at the L.A. Times is very encouraging; the East Coast, where Bob Blumenthal on the Boston Globe is less so; and England, where Jack Masserick at the London Evening Standard finds Bill just plain fraudulent.
“A Part, and Yet Apart” released.
In May, Steve Hamilton is proposing that the band set up a website, an idea met with incredulity by Bill.
Sessions with Eddie Jobson and Pete Lockett precede a gig at Carolyn’s birthday party in September, and an October East Coast leg which is scripted specifically around a run at Birdland, another first in a year full of firsts. It’s a long way from Madison Square Gardens to Birdland, as could be said, and Carolyn and a delegation of friends from the UK were there to witness the event.
Following excellent Eastern European jazz festival dates, Bill teams up with Pete Lockett for the final first of the year, a UK Contemporary Music Network tour for the percussion group “Network of Sparks”. Things are going well.
By now Bill is manager, road manager, booking agent, composer, drummer, producer, publicist, husband and father, and the workload, increasing alarmingly with the arrival of computers is, just about, getting done.
Somewhere, as the New Millennium dawns, he is dimly aware that his days of hammering out the big beat are gone, and jazz, whatever that might be, will be his home for the foreseeable future.
The year starts slowly with weeks of composition for a new CD, but begins to boil when Larry Coryell is called in on guitar for some Pizza Express dates, and becomes the front of the band when Clahar has to cancel a Spanish tour due to illness.
The band’s most ambitious UK tour yet, of 19 cities in October, is followed, as before, with an immediate visit to the studio to record “The Sound of Surprise”. In a world of home recording and Pro-Tools, this is an antediluvian way of making music reserved only for those with supreme confidence in their abilities. Not for the faint-hearted; nowhere to hide, and no-one can help. Bill, producing, declares it the best music he has been responsible for.
The UK west country, Japan, Spain, and South Africa are all visited before the May release of “The Sound of Surprise” and the serious business of what may turn out to be Bruford’s last 16 date coast-to coast US tour. The road-work is generally profitable and Bill is leading the only UK jazz quartet to regularly tour North America.
Permanently tied to administration, Bill composes no more, and barely keeps in shape on the set.
Constant Visa requirements mean that each band member will need two passports – one in use, the other at a Consulate.
Refurbishment at home.
Managing the band still appears to be effective, and some sort of fun, but sleep is disappearing rapidly. Somewhere around this time Bill achieves a first of concertising after only four hours sleep, and four hours with intermittent dozing is all he’s going to get at this pace.
Despite Carolyn’s unparalleled support, dove-tailing the professional with the domestic remains as complex as ever. In the Fall, a disappointing Cork Jazz Festival is followed by the band’s third substantial UK tour, but this one, mercifully, is not followed by recording sessions.
A December trip to Los Angeles – a 13,000 mile round trip – for a 45 minute appearance was not, perhaps, the wisest move.
With Tim Garland in mind, Patrick Clahar is asked to leave the band.
Earthworks II / Bruford-Borstlap
Garland’s energy and enormously creative output prove an excellent tonic, and the band sails around Germany before succumbing to the inevitable Japanese jet-lag.
“Footloose and Fancy Free” is released, alongside the companion DVD “Footloose in NYC ”, recorded the previous year at the Bottom Line.
The band visits the east coast and the mid-west of the US, and there is an unexpectedly high profile date with Stewart Copeland in the UK in the summer. But the eye is now on a South American tour that is finally, after several miscarriages and some 400 emails, shaping up for September. Aquiles Sojo turns out to be exactly the right man to take the band to the right gigs in four countries in 5 days, and Bruford is thrilled that the flawless preparations produce a tour that he has been waiting for for most of his professional career. Nevertheless, the time taken to arrange this trip has been phenomenal, and it is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime event.
In November, Bill begins a new, and hopefully logistically simpler, partnership with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap at the Nijmegen Jazz Festival.
Earthworks II / Bruford-Borstlap
Appearances can be deceptive, and gigs are drying up. Four years ago Bruford maintained he would be unable to function at less than 50 gigs a year, and the tally for 2002 was a miserable 45. 2003 doesn’t look any better. For him, playing an instrument at this level requires constant gigging – below a certain frequency, it becomes difficult to remember the language. It also becomes increasingly hard to secure the services of the band members if there is less to offer on a regular basis.
Teaches a course at the local Academy of Contemporary Music.
A useful UK tour in the Spring is used to run-in new material from the hugely-productive Tim Garland, (which is to form the basis for a new CD to be recorded live in Oakland CA.), and peaks with a season headlining at Ronnie Scott’s, a milestone of sorts.
Bill’s 54th birthday and 2729th gig is celebrated on stage at Catalina’s in Hollywood, and, a fresh CD safely recorded, the second edition of Earthworks returns to UK to allow the future to present itself.
Earthworks II / Bruford-Borstlap
Gathering all his own recorded efforts under one roof, Bill forms Summerfold and Winterfold Records, following his exit from the ailing DGM Records, his home for the past eight years. Distributed by another new partner, Rob Ayling, at Voiceprint, “Random Acts of Happiness” is the first CD from Summerfold, released in the Spring. An ambitious schedule of expanded and re-mastered re-releases and fresh material is planned to follow. A juicy Summer tour, representing the fruit of some 8 months heavy emailing, and with the astonishing Gwilym Simcock now on piano, is booked for April to July. Under continual pressure to re-invent, half-a-dozen dates are sewn in to the itinerary for Earthworks Underground, the nine-piece little big-band co-led with the ever-creative Tim Garland.
Autumn sees the release of fresh material with his Dutch partner Michiel Borstlap, and the year ends with a week spent recording a New York edition of Earthworks Underground in action at Iridium, with this recording to be the next Summerfold major release. There are now some 8 titles out on the new labels, with another dozen planned for the end of next year.
Earthworks II / Bruford-Borstlap
Much time spent rummaging though archive material as the pace of re-issues quickens at Summerfold / Winterfold. Bill appears to be permanently strapped to the computer—the new coal face—as are so many of his colleagues. By the end of the year there will be some 22 titles on the growing new labels, and public response is encouraging.
Earthworks drifts artistically, as Bill remains uncertain as to its future development. Offers of concerts in far off places continue to arrive, but the band functions mostly on repertoire, and breaks little new ground. World Drummers Ensemble reconvene in Holland, and Bill records that and Earthworks with Gwilym Simcock for later release on Summerfold. It seems that all fresh recordings will now be live—its quicker, easier, cheaper, and, if you can get footage, you have a DualDisc or DVD.
A combination of logistical simplicity, good pay, and better profile tips the balance in favour of doing some drum clinics. Having avoided them like the plague since his extensive outing in October 1982 at the beginning of his relationship with Tama, Bill now re-opens negotiations. If the market has grown enormously in the intervening 24 years, it has also become more scientific, and brand Bruford has to be test-marketed at retail before it gets the go-ahead.
Earthworks II / Bruford-Borstlap
Bill stays on after Earthworks’ first trip to S.E.Asia to deliver drum workshops in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. With an appearance at the much tougher Montreal Drum Festival accepted for November, these are relatively “soft” markets in which to warm up at delivering what are effectively two-hour one-man shows. Depressingly, it is the case that whatever numbers the full state-of-the-art quartet Earthworks attracts in any given market will be doubled if the drummer alone shows up for a solo appearance. The band continues on to Spain, Poland, and, at last, Scandinavia, as the year progresses.
Also developing surprisingly well is the ad-hoc duo with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap. Having started with modest expectations in Nijmegen, Netherlands, in 2002, the two have developed an all-improvised and conversational style of music, whose intimate nature seems to sit well with both audiences and promoters in Rotterdam and Kristiansand. Logistically easy to record and produce, Bill arranges to record upcoming dates at European Jazz Festivals, with a view to later release on Summerfold.
In November, he takes a loss on bringing the entire UK Earthworks to play Iridium in New York, prior to better paid East coast solo appearances and workshops. The year climaxes excitingly with an appearance at, and the receipt of an Award from, the Montreal Drum Festival. Also on the bill are the brilliant Bill Stewart and Roy Haynes.
Bruford-Borstlap / Drum Clinics
After four years of steady nurturing, Winterfold and Summerfold are flourishing with about thirty titles across the two labels. The year starts slowly with the release of the two Earthworks Anthology DVDs, but the centrepiece in May is a bracing 12 shows in 14 days cross-Canada drum clinic tour for Howard Kalisky at Efkay, Tama’s Canadian distibutor. Both attendance and reaction are surprisingly good, and Bill even visits Edmonton, the first city on his first North American tour, some 49 tours ago.
The Borstlap-Bruford Duo goes quietly about its business at several top-line festivals, and encouraged by the response, Bill decides to go around again with a fresh live CD. Most of the summer disappears in the editing, artwork and production of ‘In Two Minds’, scheduled to appear in time for the group’s performance at the London Jazz Festival in November. A sparse autumn leads to Paris and Hungary before an excellent reception at the Purcell Room on the South Bank, London at the L.J.F. John Cumming of Serious music producers has been a help all year, with festivals in Bath, Gateshead, and now London, and seems now to have taken the Duo under his wing. With Earthworks parked and re-fuelling at the twenty year mark, John offers to put together dates for Bruford-Borstlap in May next year, and 2007 ends optimistically.
As at January 1st 2008, Bill has been a professional musician for forty years, and performed 2870 times.
John Cumming’s estimation of demand for Bruford-Borstlap proves over-optimistic, and May’s tour is no more than a few scattered dates. Earthworks gets a final outing at Ronnie Scott’s in the summer. The increasing effort required to produce a diminishing supply of work gnaws at self-confidence, and somewhere during the year the decision is taken to step down from public performance, after an honourable 41-year innings.
Staying on top of the instrument needs perpetual personal practise and the constant use of the language of music, preferably on a stage. Without it, both vernacular and confidence slip. Further progress would seem also to be on the other side of bits of software – the Mandala drum, Sibelius, and Pro-Tools to think of three – and the hours of heavy labour mastering them are a powerful deterrent.
Late summer and autumn see the production of a Collection CD for both Summerfold and Winterfold, further work on ‘Skin and Wire’ at Brunel University with Colin Riley, and completion of the Autobiography. The book is despatched to the the printers in China on December 1st to much excitement.
Bill’s final gig is played as part of a Radio 3 national broadcast of a programme of Words and Music at St.George’s Hall, Liverpool. Carolyn attends. The last dying notes of the show are provided, appropriately, by Bill’s drums.
He will retire from public performance on January 1st next.
Retirement from the stage
On January 1st Bill ceased activities behind a drumkit on the public stage, the announcement of which drew almost as much interest as his original departure from ‘Yes’. The extra time available was promptly spent on activities at Summerfold and Winterfold and the release of his Autobiography in March. The book was met with a gratifying amount of goodwill and a small deluge of good reviews, to the surprise of both Bill and his publisher. Spring releases were the ‘Winterfold Collection 1978-1986’ and the ‘Summerfold Collection 1987-2008’, both greatest hits collections from across the two labels.
By the end of a summer week in Croatia helping out at the Groznjan International Percussion Summer Course, interest in the book had prompted the booking of a dozen non-drumming lectures at UK Universities, Colleges and libraries loosely titled “The Creative Artist in a Commercial World” for November. Fall releases were the first and only Moraz-Bruford live album, ‘In Tokyo’, and Bill’s last album of fresh performances encapsulated on ‘Skin and Wire’ with Colin Riley and PianoCircus.
Next up for 2010 is the January re-release of Bill’s Network of Sparks CD with multi-percussionist Pete Lockett, and the refurbishment of this website. It would seem that retirement from the stage doesn’t mean retirement from everything else just yet.
Lectures and Talks
Following the February release of the Network of Sparks CD called ‘One’, featuring Bill and percussionist Pete Lockett (BBSF024CD), much of the rest of the year is taken up with lectures and talks on the continuing theme of ‘The Creative Musician in a Commercial World’, at various UK academic institutions. This continues on into the US in the Fall with highlight appearances at the Manhattan School of Music, Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, the Drum Shop in Memphis TN., and Borders Books in King of Prussia, PA.
Back to School
Removal from active service as a full time performer affords Bill the opportunity to stand back a little, and reflect. The first half of the year he teaches a short course in ‘Musicianship for Drummers’ at the local Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. Surrey, UK, and subsequently contributes to the school’s new M.A. course in Music Performance. Lectures and informal talks continue at retail drumstore level in the USA, and then in Swedish Universities. It’s becoming apparent that the best way – or at least a way – he can contribute to the ongoing discourse about drums and drumming may be from an academic background. In September Bill enrols as a postgraduate student at doctoral level in the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at Surrey University, with a view to researching notions of creativity and the drumset.
November sees the release by Foruli Publications of Bill’s popular autobiography as a special hand-bound signed limited edition. This is accompanied by two vinyl discs of demos and master recordings called ‘From Conception to Birth’.
Effectively off-grid to the residual demands of the music industries, Bill pursues his research in creativity and popular music performance under the watchful eye of his supervisor, Dr. Milton Mermikides. Among his other, many distinctions, Milton was Earthworks’ pianist Steve Hamilton’s room-mate at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the 1990s.
Surfacing from academia with a PhD to his credit, Dr. Bruford writes a second book, informed by his research findings, for the University of Michigan Press. In the Spring, he takes time out to attend the Induction Ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with members of his old firm, Yes. Something about the passing of Allan Holdsworth on April 15th, in Bill’s opinion one of the most exciting musician’s with whom he’s ever had the privilege to perform, acts as a catalyst to complete the compilation and production of ‘1977-1980:Seems Like A Lifetime Ago’ , a boxed set of his first band Bruford for Autumn release on Winterfold Records. Edging back in to the record business may yet prove to be not without its hazards.