Bill Bruford, drums; Steve Hamilton, piano; Patrick Clahar, tenor and soprano saxophones; Mark Hodgson, bass
On his latest release with Earthworks, Bill Bruford continues to reinforce his reputation as one of the top drumsetists, both technically and musically. Surprise is thoroughly a Jazz record and, for those hating on the Prog Rock guy, Bill can definitely play some Jazz. Each song is written or co-written by Bruford, many concentrate on rhythmic relationships and the textures they accommodate--a good forum for Brufordís abilities but not for many others musicians'. In particular, these Earthworks, for all of their acumen (especially bassist Hodgson), are competent, not excellent improvisers, save Bruford himself. Songwriting connoisseurs will probably be a bit disappointed with this record. The first tune is full of light and surprising transitions, thoughtful and engaging harmony; the others are not as graceful, their development dictated by polyrhythmic possibility and sometimes plain Jazz convention. This is not to say that this music does not have its moments: there is a batch of good themes, mostly rhythmic and/or orchestrational, not melodic, and the rhythm section's playing is simply kick-ass. The development of these themes, unfortunately, is rarely both creative and musical. This is evident in some awkward transitions and forms, at times both meandering and choppy. Due to some uninspired choices, this record doesn't excel like the leaderís superior drumming.
by Eric Roth
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, October 2002 issue, all rights reserved