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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Bill Bruford: The Autobiography: Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks and More (2009)

‘If the British Prime Minister’s Cabinet could co-operate on the same level as the great Miles Davis quintets, we’d be experiencing a different form of government altogether.’ (page 142)
This is an absolutely brilliant book. It is a rare example of an autobiography by a musician who’s got something interesting to say – about making music, about his own feelings and ambitions in music, about the bands he’s played with, about the enormous changes he’s seen over the past 40 years in the music ‘business’ and wider society – and who says it with intelligence and dry humour. The only comparisons I can think of are Mile Davis’s and Bob Dylan’s autobiographies, but Bill’s has intelligent and thoughtful points to make about a much wider range of subjects. And he’s English (hooray!)
If you’re interested in the music of the 70s, if you’re interested in progressive rock music, if you’re interested in jazz, if you want to know how albums are actually pieced together, how bands behave on the road, how the recording studio works, what managers are like, the cost to a person’s private life of being a working musician doing gruelling foreign tours, if you want tips on how to survive in the music business, or if you’re just interested in the social, political, cultural and economic history of the last 40 years, then buy this wonderful book!
Review
Bill Bruford, son of a vet from Sevenoaks in Kent, was a teenage prodigy of a drummer, as soon as he could taking the train up to London to see American jazz drummers performing at Ronny Scott’s and other Soho jazz clubs in the mid-60s and learning from everyone. By 1968 a series of chance encounters led him to land the gig as drummer in the new progressive band, Yes, his extraordinary technique propelling the band through their first five albums: Yes, Time and A WordThe Yes Album (1971), Fragile (1971) and their masterpiece, Close To the Edge (1973).
Yes in concert 1971. L-R: Tony Kaye keyboards, Chris Howe on guitar and Bill Bruford on drums
Yes in concert 1971. L-R: Tony Kaye keyboards, Chris Howe on guitar and Bill Bruford on drums
At which point, just as Yes were about to tour the album round the US and go supernova, Bill left the band to join their rival in progressive rock, the far darker and more experimental King Crimson. Led by guitar maestro Robert Fripp, the Crim had had chronic difficulty keeping a stable line-up since their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King back in 1969. Bruford’s arrival heralded the third incarnation of the band, much heavier and more guitar-driven and without the pseudo-medieval lyrics and elaborate song structures of Peter Sinfield. This darker sound came to the fore on the albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless And Bible Black (1974), Red (1974) and the umpteen bootlegs and live albums from the time.

Bill Bruford took up music and drumming at the age of 12. By age 27 his musical character had already been forged in the fiery furnace of four of the biggest progressive rock groups of the day: Y..


'Skin and Wire: PianoCircus featuring Bill Bruford play the music of Colin Riley', in which a composer supervises a jazz drummer who used to be a rock drummer playing with a group of classical pianist..


Inside the beating heart of some of one of the world’s greatest orchestras, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, lies a percussion section with a very individual and separate identity. The Ne..


British percussionist Bill Bruford and Dutch keyboard master Michiel Borstlap are two of the leading lights in contemporary improvised music. Since their first meeting at the Nijme..


Pete Lockett is one of the world’s leading multi-percussionists. An authority on Indian percussion and an expert on tablas, kanjira and bongos, he has played and recorded with countless artists ..


Unmissable jazz collaboration sees Bill Bruford teaming up with ECM-label regular Ralph Towner on 12-string guitar and piano, and bassist Eddie Gomez, a veteran of the Bill Evans Trio, to record eleve..


Bill Bruford’s Earthworks was for 22 years one of the longest-running and most successful of the UK-based jazz groups. Having already spent twenty years on the cutting edge of modern rock p..

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