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Bruford: Durham gig

Sounds, May 1979

Ian Ravendale

DOWN ON the dance floor at not-quite midnight some hapless soul is trying to boogie-oogie. As what he's attempting to strut his stuff to is probably in something like 19/20th time his feet go in ten different directions at once and he fails over. (Strike one)

One of the great attractions of rock 'n' roll, especially over the last few years, is that the spectator is usually able to feel that given a Bert Weedon book and a couple of months in his bedroom it could be him up there on the stage. This just ain't possible with Bruford. (Strike two)

Bill Bruford and his band have got such a high level of technical expertise that it's very difficult to identify with what they are doing. It seems uncommunicative yet the paying customers obviously get something from it. Enlightened music played by and for the enlightened? Maybe, although that's probably too elitist.

It's 'jazz rock' for want of a closer term, but I wonder how a genuine 19 carat jazzer would actually view an outfit like Bruford's. They play textures rather than melodies and the musicianship is blinding in comparison to the more minimalistic approach favoured by most musos in 1979. But what would a real expert in themes, structures and improvisation make of it? And what do I, a real non-expert, make of it?

Atmospherics. Whooshes, whines and whirs. Slow bits with Bill on bells and (ring them) chimes. Fast bits with Bill looking as happy as the proverbial sandboy, mouthing along to the beat. The band carries his name but he doesn't dominate like a Cobham. No solos, no flash but he's always there. Drums, bass, guitar and keyboards are equally arranged in a straight line and all level-peg in the mix. All four are capable of leading or following and can swop over at a second's notice.

Unlike in yer standard rock band the bass and skins aren't Siamese twins. Sometimes Jeff Berlin is with Bruford, sometimes he's with guitarist Alan Holdsworth or keyboarder Dave Stewart and sometimes he's by himself, punching out lead lines. Yep, these boys can play. Is that Holdsworth doing that? No, it's Stewart.. .then again... It's both of them!

"Don't criticise what you can't understand," said someone or other 18 years back. So I won't, other than to say that I agree with Phil Sutcliffe when reviewing the band's album a couple of weeks ago he reckoned they could do with vocals. I'd add 'more obvious melodies' (Strike three) and take my leave. The Dave Clark Five were never like this.

Transcribed by Per Stornes
Updated: March 1, 2001
Scheduled update: None

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