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discover: Bill Bruford

By Anthony Garone

Crazy time signatures, virtuosity, and synthy prog fusion. Mmmm...

Who is Bruford?

Bruford was a short-lived quasi-jazz-progressive rock band featuring incredible musicianship, innovative compositions, and some of my favorite songs ever. They released three albums of original compositions, Feels Good to Me, One of a Kind, and Gradually Going Tornado, along with a couple of live albums.

Check out our Learn Hell’s Bells post!

The band was led Bill Bruford (who you might know from Yes and King Crimson) and featured Jeff Berlin on bass, Dave Stewart on keyboards, and Allan Holdsworth on guitar, who was later replaced by “The Unknown John Clark.” Bruford’s extremely complex music is made to sound effortless by these virtuosic performers.

One of a Kind is a groundbreaking instrumental album and my favorite of all their releases. Each song is memorable and has something great to offer. It opens with the track Hell’s Bells, which I dissected in another video. That song is followed by One of a Kind, a two-part song that is very near and dear to my heart. The song 5G is so good it’ll make you want to stop playing music. Honestly, every track on the album is great.

Gradually Going Tornado features Jeff Berlin on vocals, making a… Uh, best effort. Despite the vocal performance, the songwriting is awesome on this album. Age of Information is a great rock song, but the song Joe Frazier is probably the highlight of this album. It’s an instrumental track that explores some cool, fun territory and Bill Bruford lays a great foundation to let the other band members shine, particularly Jeff Berlin.

Feels Good to Me showcases Annette Peacock on vocals, which may be a bit of an acquired taste for some. Either way, this album was innovative in how it paved the way for dry-mixed, up-front female vocalists, particularly in the avant garde genre. There’s a lot of great instrumental content on the album, including some songs that remained in Bill Bruford’s repertoire for the remainder of his professional career, like Beelzebub.

Some of the weird techniques employed by this band are: odd time signatures and polyrhythms, genre mixing, virtuosic performance, key modulations, extended improvisation, and more. There’s a ton you can learn from listening to Bruford and even more if you put some effort into learning the material.

Despite its short-lived existence, this band made a lasting impact on musicians all over the world. Musicians all over the world are posting YouTube covers and transcriptions of several songs. I plan on publishing some more content in the future covering some more notable Bruford moments.

So, give a listen to each of their releases and see what inspires you to create something new and different.

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