Bill Bruford

Bill Bruford

Infobox musical artist
Name = Bill Bruford

Img_capt = Bruford at Moers Festival 2004, Germany
Img_size = 250
Landscape = Yes
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth_name = William Scott Bruford
Alias =
Born = birth date and age|1949|5|17
Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Died =
Instrument = Drums, percussion
Genre = Rock, Progressive rock, Jazz
Occupation = Musician, Songwriter
Years_active = 1968 - Present
Label = Polydor
E.G. Records
Voiceprint Records
Associated_acts = Yes, King Crimson, UK, Genesis, Earthworks, Chris Squire, Bruford, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, Gong, National Health, Steve Howe, Gordian Knot, Annette Peacock
URL = []
Notable_instruments =

William Scott Bruford (born May 17 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent), better known as Bill Bruford, is an English drummer who is recognised for his forceful, highly precise, polyrhythmic style. He was the original drummer for the highly successful progressive rock group Yes, and has been a prominent figure in the art rock movement. Bruford has performed for numerous popular acts since the early 1970s, including a stint as touring drummer for Genesis. From 1972 to 1997, Bruford was the drummer for progressive rock band King Crimson.Currently, Bruford has abandoned art rock and concentrated on jazz, leading his own jazz group, Earthworks.

He began playing the drums when he was thirteen, and was influenced by jazz drumming, which would manifest itself on early Yes albums and would remain an influence on his style throughout his career. He had success in the early seventies during his time with Yes playing on their first five albums including the LPs "The Yes Album", "Fragile", and "Close to the Edge". He left Yes at the height of their success in 1972, returning briefly for the "Union" album which was released in 1991.


Early life

Bruford explained that he chose to play drums because he watched American jazz drummers of the 1960s on BBC TV on Saturday evenings. [ All About Jazz Interview] Retrieved - 3 December 2006 ] These programmes turned the head of the thirteen-year-old Bruford. He found all the instrumentalists to be fascinating and mysterious, but particularly the drummers. His sister then gave him his first pair of brushes as a present. He later took a few lessons - while still at school - from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic, but after that he picked up other techniques wherever he found them.

He said that he never acquired drum technique for the sake of acquiring it, but as a solution to a particular problem, and if he heard something that he couldn't do, he would learn how to do it. Bruford applied this way of learning to other instruments as well, although acknowledging that he has the 'classic amateur's technique'; meaning that he knows some very difficult bits and that he has some large gaping holes in his knowledge, but his amateurism can sometimes be helpful in forging a style, because he has to work around his weaknesses.

He met his wife, Carolyn, when they were 15; marrying at 24. They have three children, Alex (born 1977, also a drummer and in the band The Infadels), Holly (born 1979) and Jack (born 1986). Fact|date=February 2007


Most of the early members of Yes all lived in the same house. They were almost confined to the property, because at short notice they would be asked to play a concert somewhere, so leaving the house for a few hours was their only freedom from the confines of the band. Bruford likened it to the life of a fireman; when the bell rang they would slide down the greasy pole and go play a gig somewhere.

Although seemingly a close-knit band, there were other sides to Yes: Bruford remembers the whole era as being very argumentative, and hot blooded. There was a constant state of friction, and plenty of arguments between Bruford, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson. This was explained as being because all three were from totally different social backgrounds. Bruford admitted that he found it hard to understand Anderson's northern English accent, and Anderson's penchant for speaking in strange sentences that nobody could understand, which later influenced Yes' lyrics.

The band members were no strangers to alcohol, but Bruford doesn't remember a lot of "sex, drugs and rock n' roll". The whole band used to drink a lot of alcohol, and they often visited a club in London called the Speakeasy that the band's manager, Roy Flynn, also managed. The Speakeasy stayed open until two or three in the morning, so Yes could play a gig in England within a hundred-and-fifty mile radius and still make it back to the Speakeasy at about two o'clock, where they drank "large amounts" of scotch and Coke. [ [ Yesstories - Beginnings] ]

Bruford, by 1972, had felt that Yes had come as far as it could, or at least as far as he could contribute to it. He didn't want to spend what he felt was an inordinate amount of time in the studio debating chords and producing records that he felt would only be in the shadow of "Close To The Edge". His main reason for leaving the band, however, was the fact that his rehearsals with bassist Chris Squire were always delayed. Waiting for Squire to turn up was the worst thing he had to endure, and said that Squire is, "I'm sure, a wonderful guy. But in those days he was also very, very late for all appointments, departures, arrivals, and sound checks." According to Bruford, it is the most grievous form of offense that one musician can visit upon another. He suggested that it's the last guy who enters the room is seen as the "biggest guy." Squire used to keep Yes waiting for everything, and Bruford suggests that they are quite possibly "still waiting for everything". [ Abstract logix - Bruford interview] Retrieved - 29 November 2006 ] He also once had a fist-fight with Squire after a concert, because they had violently disagreed about who had played badly. However, it is important to note that Bruford played drums on Squire's 1975 solo album, "Fish Out of Water".

King Crimson

Bruford had accepted an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson, which he had wanted to join for quite some time. His instinct to remember complicated drum parts was shown when he learned how to play the long percussion and guitar part in the middle of "21st Century Schizoid Man", "by listening to it and just learning it".

He admits that his note-reading skills are slower than he would like: "I learned how to read the horizontal lines, but not the vertical notes." Despite this, he has successfully composed lots of (written) compositions over the years, albeit slowly.

Bruford was more interested in artistic pursuits, and the framework of King Crimson appealed to that sensibility in him. He cites the six months that the group contained avant-garde percussionist Jamie Muir as tremendously influential on him as a player, opening him up to "musical worlds I had only vaguely suspected existed". Violin, viola and keyboard player David Cross was selected to flesh out the sound of the new band. Rehearsals and touring began in late 1972, and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" was released early the next year, and the group spent the remainder of 1973 touring Britain, Europe, and America. Fripp's guitar playing was loud and aggressive, and Bruford's propulsive drumming meshed with John Wetton's often powerful bass guitar.

The band seems to have undergone a gradual disbanding over the next year. Two albums were released with the four member lineup (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Cross), "Starless and Bible Black", and live album "USA". Finally, as a 3-piece (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) King Crimson released "Red". Many consider this King Crimson's most formative and experimental period. After the release of "Red", Fripp decided to disband King Crimson.

Genesis live

Bruford also spent six months touring with Genesis in 1976, recordings from which appeared on the Genesis live albums "Seconds Out" and "Three Sides Live", as well as the theatrical release of . Bruford, who was rehearsing (as guest percussionist) with Collins' side project Brand X, suggested drumming while Collins sang until they found a permanent live drummer. In the event he found he felt no deep affinity to the band's music. "I was just concerned with doing a good job on drums as a kind of 'hired gun'", he has been quoted as saying, stating he "behaved badly, sniped critically and impotently from the side lines", for which he subsequently apologised.

olo career

Bill Bruford led his own band in the late 1970s, called simply "Bruford". Members of the band were initially Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums).

The first album (recorded as a solo project) also had Annette Peacock on vocals, and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn. The second album, "One of a Kind", was entirely instrumental, except for some spoken lines during the introduction to "Fainting In Coils". There were two live albums from this period." Bruford - Rock Goes To College" is a 2006 DVD release from the eponymous BBC television series and "The Bruford Tapes", a live show originally broadcast for radio station WLIR, where guitarist John Clark replaced Holdsworth.

The group's final studio album "Gradually Going Tornado" continued this lineup with bass player Berlin providing vocals on some songs.


Following his first solo album, he was involved in a reunion with King Crimson bassist and vocalist John Wetton in the progressive rock group UK. During his time in the band, from 1977 to 1978, the band released its eponymous debut album and conducted one UK tour and a couple of North American tours, after which he left the band - in disagreement with Wetton and keyboardist Eddie Jobson's decision to fire guitarist Allan Holdsworth, whom he'd brought into the band - to focus on his own band Bruford.

Return to King Crimson

Bruford was part of a newly formed King Crimson again in 1981 with a different lineup, consisting of Bruford, Robert Fripp on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals. He recorded "Discipline", "Beat", and "Three of a Perfect Pair" with them, moving to a kit of both acoustic and electronic drums and using his renowned polyrhythmic style, before they disbanded again in 1984.

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and Yes again

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (sometimes referred to by the acronym ABWH) was a permutation of the progressive rock band Yes. The group consisted of vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe, with Tony Levin providing the bass duties since Yes bassist Chris Squire was involved with the real Yes. These Yes alumni had played together on the most popular recordings by Yes in the early 1970s. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe recorded one self-titled studio album in 1989. A live recording from their subsequent concert tour was released in 1993.

Bruford would rejoin Yes briefly in 1991 and 1992 for the "Union" album and tour, so titled because it brought together ABWH and the members of Yes prior to the union as an eight-member band. His comments about the album and tour:

About the tour:

Bruford and Steve Howe would later undertake a recording project together in 1992/1993 to have an orchestra reinterpret some of Yes' most memorable works, but this would prove to be the very last of his involvement with Yes. "The Symphonic Music of Yes" was released on RCA records in 1993.

King Crimson, again

King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s lineup along with Trey Gunn on Warr guitars and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. This so-called 'double trio' configuration recorded one full-length album, 1995's THRAK, as well as experimenting with the ProjeKcts, before Levin and Bruford left the band. Bruford's reasons for abandoning the double trio were a result of his frustration with rehearsals:

Bruford couldn’t see the purpose in further rehearsals, which were getting very expensive. He felt that the band didn’t seem to be going anywhere with them. He wanted to move forward, and couldn’t understand why they were not going forward. Robert Fripp, obviously, wasn’t happy with the music either. They had ten days of rehearsals in May 1997, and Bruford said that he had had enough, and that he couldn't contribute anything at all. The music was going nowhere, he had nothing to say about it, and nothing to contribute, so it was best that he then proceeded with a full-time jazz career. [ World of Genesis] Retrieved: 29 November 2006 ]


Earthworks was formed in December 1985 and its original line-up (which lasted until 1993) featured two up-and-coming UK jazz musicians and composers, Django Bates on keyboards and tenor horn, and Iain Ballamy on saxes. The band re-emerged in the 1990s with an acoustic line-up, notably featuring Tim Garland for a period.

Bruford is perhaps most famous for having revolutionised drumming through the use of Simmons electronic drums and his melodic drumming, though in recent years he has returned to using a primarily acoustic drum set. While Bruford has creative freedom with Earthworks, he continues to collaborate with many musicians, including one-time Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz (with whom he recorded two albums in the 1980s) and bassist Tony Levin. Earthworks has been his primary focus in recent years, particularly after his departure from the latest incarnation of King Crimson (which ended the band's 'double trio' experiment).

In an interview for "The San Diego Union-Tribune" (15 May 2003) he said, "I have this image that I might be a 'rock guy on vacation'. That idea is anathema to me — and I've cured it by making eight albums with Earthworks." He described Earthworks as "seeing music as a social encounter, where you look another guy in the eyes across the room, say 'one-two-three-four' and the music begins. That's where my pleasure lies, for sure" ("Los Angeles Times", 16 May 2003).

Recent work

With Earthworks put on hold in 2007 [ [ Bill Bruford drums on] ] , Bruford has been focusing on new collaborations—including as a duo with pianist Michiel Borstlap; and with contemporary composer Colin Riley and collective piano"circus"—and drum clinics.


* Bruford, noting the alliterative qualities of both names, would sometimes wear a Boston Bruins tank top that had a large letter "B" on the front. [ [ Discipline Global Mobile] ]
* Often wore yellow clothing during the 80's King Crimson era.
* Bill Bruford's son Alex is also a drummer, currently playing for electro-rock act The Infadels.
* Bruford has been involved in a number of abortive projects, most notably a trio with Rick Wakeman and John Wetton which made the headlines of Melody Maker in October 1976; Bruford has also told of "an abortive and late rehearsal/audition with bass player Jack Bruce out at his mansion in Essex, once, but nothing came of that". He was also approached in 1985 by ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to be the drummer for his new band with Paul Rodgers, The Firm, along with bass player Pino Palladino. "We rehearsed briefly, but I think decided we were mutually unsuited..!". [ [ Forums - Bill answered your questions: Sunday April 15 2007 ] ]

Notable bands

* Yes, from its foundation in 1968 to 1972's "Close to the Edge", and its 1991-92 "Union" period.
* King Crimson, from 1972 and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" to the mid-1990s and the ProjeKcts.
* Collaboration with numerous bands in the mid-to-late-1970s, including touring with Genesis and Gong and playing with National Health.
* Bruford, a fusion band which released four albums between 1977 and 1980.
* UK on their 1978 debut album.
* Earthworks (band), his current jazz band founded in 1986 and which has gone through several incarnations.
* Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (1989), a project of four Yes alumni.
* Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, an experimental collaboration with Tony Levin, David Torn and Chris Botti.



*"Yes" (1969)
*"Time and a Word" (1970)
*"The Yes Album" (1971)
*"Fragile" (1972)
*"Close to the Edge" (1972)
*"Yessongs" (1973, live)
*"Union" (1991)

King Crimson

*"Larks' Tongues in Aspic" (1973)
*"Starless and Bible Black" (1974)
*"Red" (1974)
*"USA" (1975, recorded live 1974)
*"Discipline" (1981)
*"Beat" (1982)
*"Three of a Perfect Pair" (1984)
*"The Great Deceiver" (1992, recorded live 1973-1974)
*"VROOOM" (1994)
*"THRAK" (1995)
*"" (1995, recorded live 1994)
*"THRaKaTTaK" (1996, recorded live 1995)
*"The Night Watch" (1997, recorded live 1973)
*"" (1998, recorded live 1984)
*"Live At The Jazz Café" (1999 as part of The ProjeKcts sub-group box set, recorded live 1997)
*"VROOOM VROOOM" (2001, recorded live 1995-1996)

teve Howe

*"Beginnings" (1975)
*"The Steve Howe Album" (1979)
*Turbulence (1991)

Chris Squire

*"Fish Out of Water" (1975)

Absolute Elsewhere

*"In Search Of Ancient Gods" (1976)

Pavlov`s Dog

*"At the Sound of the Bell" (1976)


*"U.K." (1978)


*"Feels Good to Me" (1978)
*"One of a Kind" (1979)
*"Bruford - Rock Goes To College" (1979 - released 2006)
*"Gradually Going Tornado" (1980)
*"The Bruford Tapes" (1980, live recording)
*"Master Strokes: 1978-1985" (1986, compilation)


*"Seconds Out" (1977, live)
*"Three Sides Live" (1982, live) (International edition only, until 1994 when the album was remastered with the US version being deleted.)
*"" (2000)

Duo with Patrick Moraz

*"Music for Piano and Drums" (1983)
*"Flags" (1985)

Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe

*"Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe" (1989)
*"An Evening of Yes Music Plus" (1993)

Duo with Steve Howe

*"The Symphonic Music of Yes" (1993)


*"Earthworks" (1987)
*"Dig?" (1989)
*"All Heaven Broke Loose" (1991)
*"Stamping Ground: Bill Bruford's Earthworks Live" (1994, live)
*"Heavenly Bodies" (1997, compilation)
*"A Part & Yet Apart" (1999)
*"Sound of Surprise" (2001)
*"Footloose and Fancy Free" (2002, live)
*"Random Acts of Happiness" (2004, live)

Annette Peacock

*"X Dreams" (1978)
*"Been In The Streets Too Long" (1983)

With The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam

*"Go Between" (1987)

Bruford with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez

*"If Summer Had Its Ghosts" (1997)

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities

*"Bruford Levin Upper Extremities" (1998)
*"B.L.U.E. Nights" (2000, live)

Gordian Knot

*"Emergent" (2003)

With Tim Garland

*"Random Acts of Happiness" (2004)
*"Earthworks Underground Orchestra" (2006)

With Michiel Borstlap

*"Every Step a Word, Every Word a Song" (2004)
*"In Two Minds" (2007)

With David Torn

*"Cloud About Mercury" (1986)

With Kazumi Watanabe

*"The Spice Of Life" (1987)
*"The Spice Of Life Too" (1988)


External links

* [ Bill Bruford's official site]
* [ Bill Bruford discography]
* [ Bruford/Levin Upper Extremities]
* [ Review of "Random Acts of Happiness" album]
* [ Bill Bruford Radio Interview with Chris Comer 5/28/01]
* [ In Two Minds - New CD]

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