Having already spent twenty years on the cutting edge of modern rock percussion, Bill Bruford formed Earthworks in 1986, as a deliberate return to his roots in jazz. Availing himself of the brightest young talent on the burgeoning U.K. jazz scene, namely keyboardist and tenor horn player Django Bates, and saxophonist Iain Ballamy, both best known as frontrunners with the anarchic big band Loose Tubes, Bruford encouraged the use of rock technology with jazz sensibility – the hall mark of Earthwork’s stylish approach. By letting in air and light, and adding a little wit and wisdom, they produced a particularly British antidote to the increasingly grotesque jazz fusion scene. The first LP for Editions EG, Earthworks, was a testament to their achievement
Bill Bruford has always been an essential part of the new developments in drumming, but has also always stood apart from fashion and trends. He was a guiding force in the British “Art Rock” movement as a member of Yes, King Crimson and Genesis.
Bruford formed his jazz group Earthworks in 1986 specifically to continue this work on melody from the drum set, but now in a jazz context. The latest incarnation of Earthworks continues to pull in the brightest young talent on the U.K. scene to explore jazz with a broadly acoustic sax-piano-bass-drums line-up
It was in 1987 when Bill Bruford’s Jazz Project “Earthworks” got off the ground. The debut album by Earthworks entitled “Bill Bruford’s Earthworks” might seem like Bruford took a quantum leap from Progressive Rock to Modern Jazz. In a lot of ways, Progressive Rock is the true “Alternative Rock”. Progressive Rock started when Rock artists wanted to move beyond the parameters of standard Rock and Roll. Progressive Rock artists also add a high level of sophistication to their music. Jazz, being a very sophisticated form a music is therefore not a quantum leap for the Progressive Rock artists. On “Bill Bruford’s Earthworks”, not only does Bruford make the leap from Progressive Rock to Jazz, but he makes a mark of epic proportions. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this is one of the great Modern Jazz albums of all time.
It’s worth noting that there are actually two incarnations of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks. This collection represents the debut work of the first incarnation. The first incarnation consistsed of Bruford on Drums and Percussion, Iain Bellamy on Sax, Django Bates on Keyboard and Bass, and Mick Hutton on Acoustic Bass. This first incarnation would be together from 1986 through 1993. After that, Bruford went back for a tour of duty with King Crimson. Following that tour of duty, Bruford would form a new lineup for Earthworks.