Bruford's Earthworks, Bill - The Sound Of Surprise
Year of Release: 2001
Label: Discipline Global Mobile
Catalog Number: DGM0101
Total Time: 64:39:00
If anyone out there doesn't already know that Bill Bruford is a musical genius, allow me to offer proof: The Sound of Surprise! The latest release from Bruford's all-acoustic jazz outfit, Earthworks, The Sound of Surprise showcases the master timekeeper's vision and songwriting and production skills while sharing the spotlight with his highly talented bandmates. Almost every type of jazz is represented on TSOS, with the notable exception of cool jazz, which is best left to its commercial-minded proponents (i.e., Fourplay, Spyro Gyra, Kenny G, etc.).
If anyone has any doubts that TSOS is "prog", allow me to offer my opinion: Yes! The intricate beats, rhythms, and time changes that nearly every prog-fan demands in his/her music are present in abundance. For most of the album, Earthworks eschews common time in favor of neck-breaking (occasionally intractable!) meters that make finger-snapping nearly impossible and potentially dangerous. The great news is that the band's technical expertise is more than up to the task of tackling such tricky work. Earthworks moves through each arrangement with seamless grace and precision, lulling the listener into an apparent groove, then wrenching the victim back to reality with an extra measure or two of off-kilter riffing. As I've already mentioned, the musicianship is world-class; all members play their instruments to a caliber that will have the most discriminating prog-head nodding in approval. Further adding to the progger's joy is the fact that all songs are longish, ranging between five and ten minutes, providing plenty of time for listening, analysis (come on, we all do it), and amazement.
Now, about those songs.... "Revel Without a Pause" is a happy, Latin-tinged opener anchored by tidy piano chording and driven by Patrick Clahar's Kenton-style saxophone riffing. "Triplicity" opens with a solo from Master Bruford, then launches into a hard-to-count triplicate arrangement founded on Mark Hodgson's bass and Bruford's cowbell, and interspersed with straight swing and cocktail lounge jazz that features solos from Clahar and pianist Steve Hamilton. "The Shadow of a Doubt" is an easy, slow-groove blues that again highlights Clahar and Hamilton and conjures visions of after-hours jams in smoky, inner city jazz clubs. "Teaching Vera to Dance" gets rolling with a solo from bassist Hodgson, then kicks in with a quirky straight four arrangement that is impossible to dance to (except maybe for the titular Vera), thanks to some masterful left hand work from Bruford. "Half Life" is a maddening romp that incorporates some of TSOS's wildest time changes and styles, bouncing smoothly between bop, cocktail, and swing. Tough to analyze but a joy to listen to, "Half Life" is one of my two favorite songs on TSOS.
"Come to Dust", the album's longest track, is a glacial jam that allows Earthworks to stretch out and show some emotion. Everyone gets a solo, all so good that the enthralled listener may be caught off guard at song's end, astounded that ten minutes could pass so quickly. "Cloud Cuckoo Land" wakes things up again with a brisk arrangement and excellent solos from Hamilton and Clahar. "Never the Same Way Once" is another challenging track, one that showcases Earthworks' uncanny (psychic?) ensemble playing and ability to balance sudden time changes and styles. Hamilton, Clahar, and Hodgson all get solos, with Hodgson providing some marvelously nimble runs up and down the neck of his double bass. My favorite track, "The Wooden Man Sings and the Stone Woman Dances", is a three-part suite that features a rollicking intro ("Prelude") and two upbeat, joyful movements portraying each of the title characters. "The Wooden Man Sings" (and) "And the Stone Woman Dances" share common themes, driven happily along by Hamilton's piano, Clahar's soprano saxophone, and BIG hand-claps from what surely must be the entire band. The melodic counterpoints between Hamilton and Clahar are particularly pleasing and give "The Wooden Man..." a vibrant, light-hearted joy that ends all too quickly with a sudden, breath-taking ensemble riff.
If that's not enough - and these days, it seems like it's not - TSOS is enhanced with a live concert video of "Never The Same Way Once" and a link to the Earthworks homepage, offering listeners the opportunity to become further acquainted with the band.
Simply put, The Sound of Surprise is indeed a surprise and a very happy one, to boot. A treasure of complex musical arrangements and exciting musicianship, The Sound of Surprise deserves a place in any prog-fan's cd rack - especially those who just happen to be Bill Bruford fans.
Revel Without A Pause (7:33) / Triplicity (6:22) / The Shadow Of A Doubt (6:07) / Teaching Vera To Dance (8:14) / Half Life (5:18) / Come To Dust (9:56) / Cloud Cuckoo Land (6:05) / Never The Same Way Once (7:22) / The Wooden Man Sings and The Stone Woman Dances (7:42) / Never The Same Way Once (video) (6:48)
Bill Bruford - drums
Steve Hamilton - piano
Patrick Clahar - tenor and soprano saxophones
Mark Hodgson - bass
Bruford - Feels Good To Me (1977/2005)
Bruford - One Of A Kind (1978/2005)
Bruford - The Bruford Tapes (1979)
Bruford - Gradually Going Tornado (1980/2005)
Bruford - Master Strokes (1986)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Earthworks (1987)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Dig? (1989)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - All Heaven Broke Loose (1991)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Stamping Ground, Live (1993)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Heavenly Bodies (1997)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - If Summer Had Ghosts (1998)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - A Part And Yet Apart (1999)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - The Sound of Surprise (2001)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Footloose And Fancy Free (2002)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Random Acts Of Happiness (2004)
Bill Bruford's Earthworks - Footloose In NYC (2002) (DVD)
Genre: Progressive Rock
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