Bill Bruford

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bill Bruford in Germany at the Moers Festival 2004

William Scott "Bill" Bruford (born May 17, 1949 in Sevenoaks , Kent , England ) is a British drummer who, thanks to his powerful, virtuoso-complex, polyrhythmic and polymetric playing style and as a prominent figure in the progressive rock movement of the late 1960s, and 1970s as well as the jazz scene .

Bruford was best known for his membership in some of the most important progressive rock bands; so he worked as a musician with Yes , King Crimson and Genesis (1976 live on the Wind and Wuthering tour). In the 1980s he influenced drumming through the use of electronic drums and the melodic drumming style.


Early years

At the age of twelve, Bruford got his first drum kit from his parents. At this point he was already listening to British jazz, including Chris Barber and Acker Bilk . A short time later he followed the BBC series Jazz 625 on television, through which he met the current American stars. In 1962 his sister gave him his first pair of brooms.

From 1963 to 1967 Bruford played with fellow students interested in jazz. He receives music lessons from time to time, among his teachers is Lou Pocock, drummer with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra .

Yes (1968-1972)

Bruford began his professional career as a member of the English progressive rock band Yes , of which he was a member from 1968 to 1972. In June 1968 singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire formed the band in London . The two found Bill Bruford through a classified ad in Melody Maker , who was looking for a new band after two unsuccessful attempts. The singer Anderson was enthusiastic about Bruford's playing technique, and so he became the third in the group. A short time later it was agreed to bring keyboardist Tony Kaye and guitarist Peter Banks , with whom Squire already played at The Syn , into the band.

In September Bruford left the band again to study economics and sociology at the University of Leeds. However, with this decision, which was also requested by the parents, a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction arose. When Bruford found out that Yes could not find an adequate replacement on the drum set, he was persuaded after a performance by the band at his university to join again. After the university management did not allow him to tour for a year, Bruford finally dropped out and became a long-term member of Yes.

The first two Yes records, still heavily influenced by the Beatles and pop music of the late 1960s, are characterized by Bruford's jazzy drumming, which is unusual for this context. On three other albums, The Yes Album , Fragile and Close to the Edge , which are now considered classics of progressive rock , he developed his own characteristic rock drum style, which retained jazz elements, but is clearly part of the rock area. Heart of the Sunrise from the album Fragile (1971) is an early example of his characteristic orchestral playing .

Tired of the time-consuming perfectionism of Yes 'and convinced that he had reached the peak of the band's creative possibilities with Close to the Edge , Bruford left Yes in 1972 to join Robert Fripps ' King Crimson . Yes, who were about to start a major tour, replaced Bruford with former John Lennon band drummer Alan White .

King Crimson (1972-1974)

The dark, avant-garde music of King Crimson, which is based on improvisation like jazz , had fascinated Bruford for several years. Bandleader Robert Fripp, who was faced with the task of putting together a completely new band in 1972 (because the previous line-up had fallen apart after the last tour), was able to include ex- family singer and bassist John Wetton and Jamie Muir ( percussion ) and hire the violinist David Cross . Wetton's longtime friend Richard Palmer-James wrote the lyrics .

The music of the new line-up combined influences of hard rock and heavy metal with jazz and experimental elements. Especially the rhythm section Bruford and Wetton stood out for their precision and improvisational skills.

Bruford played three albums with King Crimson until Fripp broke up the band after Red in September 1974.

Bruford married in 1973.

Sessions (1975/1976)

Then he joined various bands, he played and initially toured with Gong . In 1975 he worked as a session musician for his former Yes colleagues Steve Howe and Chris Squire , for Roy Harper and the bands Pavlov's Dog , Absolute Elsewhere and National Health .

In 1976 he played with Phil Collins ' Brand X and briefly joined Genesis , where he replaced Collins on drums, as he took over Peter Gabriel's duties as singer. With Genesis, Bruford played his 1,000. Concert and can be heard on the live album Seconds Out .

UK (1977-1980)

In 1977 there were talks between Bruford, Wetton and the former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman . A planned musical collaboration did not materialize, however, because Wakeman's record company prevented the formation of a new band for contractual reasons. However, the three musicians wrote a few songs together including Back to the Beginning , Beelzebub and Paper Talk , some of which were later re-recorded for solo albums by Wetton and Bruford.

However, Bruford and Wetton wanted to continue their collaboration. Each of them therefore tried to win another musician for a band that was now to be founded. Bruford was able to hire the sought-after Fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth , Wetton hired the keyboardist and violinist Eddie Jobson , who had previously become known with Curved Air and Roxy Music . Together they founded the last progressive rock supergroup of the 1970s, UK .

In this line-up, however, the band only played the debut album UK , released in 1978 . After a successful world tour, Holdsworth and Bruford left the band. Bruford was replaced by Terry Bozzio (ex- Frank Zappa ) and the band continued to work as a trio.

Bruford (1977-1980)

Also in 1977 Bruford decided to start a solo career. He founded the fusion band Bruford with Dave Stewart ( keyboards ), Jeff Berlin ( electric bass ) and Allan Holdsworth ( guitar ) . This initially existed parallel to the UK.

On the first album Feels Good to Me (1977) Annette Peacock sang , the second album, One of a Kind (1978), however, was instrumental. After this album Holdsworth left the band dissatisfied. The Bruford Tapes was released in 1979 and Gradually Going Tornado in 1980 . In 1980 Bruford's band toured together with Brand X. In the same year Bruford broke up the band after massive problems with their record company EG.

Reunion of King Crimson (1980–1985)

Even after the end of the UK, Bruford remained connected to progressive rock: at the beginning of 1981 he and Robert Fripp thought about forming a new band, which they initially wanted to call Discipline . The two engaged bassist Tony Levin (ex- John Lennon , Yoko Ono and Peter Gabriel ) and Adrian Belew , who was on tour with Talking Heads , as second guitarist alongside Fripp. During the band rehearsals and the first concerts it became clear that the new band was basically a new King Crimson lineup and they were renamed "King Crimson", also for reasons of market strategy. The albums Discipline , Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair were created with this line-up . These albums are the first to hear the Simmons e-drums with which Bruford had begun to experiment. Due to massive tension within the band (especially between Fripp and Belew and between Fripp and Bruford), Fripp King Crimson broke up again in 1984.

During his time at King Crimson Bruford had played other sessions, including for Lucasfilms, Al Di Meola and Simon Darlow.

Moraz-Bruford (1983–1985)

Two albums followed with moody blues and former Yes keyboarder Patrick Moraz . Music for Piano and Drums (1983) is completely acoustic, a pure piano / drums album that shows how imaginative and varied the duo were able to compose and play. Bill Bruford calls this music 'semi-improvised music'; the compositional framework is largely filled and livened up by improvisations. 'Music For Piano And Drums' is a classic in semi-improvised music today.

The second album Flags (1985) expanded the palette of timbres to include synthesizers and e-drums, while improvisations were cut back a little in favor of more elaborate arrangements. The congenial duo toured the United States and Europe with both albums.

Sessions (1986)

In 1986 Bruford played a number of sessions again. He worked with David Torn , Tony Levin and Mark Isham , among others .

David Torn's '86 album 'Cloud About Mercury' is an album on which Brufords' musical qualities come into their own in a captivating way. His playing with the electronic drum set shines and shapes the sound like on hardly any other album. With this band of remarkable quality: David Torn guitar, guitar synthesizer, Mark Isham trumpet, electronic trumpet, Tony Levin stick, bass, Bill Bruford electronic percussion and the album in their luggage, Torn is touring the USA.

Earthworks (since 1986)

In 1986 Bruford started the jazz band Earthworks . At this point in time she included the keyboardist Django Bates , the saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Mick Hutton . The band was initially called the Bill Bruford Quartet . Her first album, Earthworks , was released in October . The band then toured Japan.

The following year he toured with Earthworks, David Torn and Mick Karn and worked in Japan with Kazumi Watanabe .

Bruford was also on tour with Earthworks in 1988, but a number of concerts had to be canceled: Hutton and Ballamy fell out, and Ballamy married his girlfriend, who had had cancer for some time. She died a week after the wedding.

Nevertheless, the band started work on their second album Dig? on.

Back at Yes (1989-1992)

Frustrated by the decreasing influence on the fortunes of Yes, singer Jon Anderson made contact with Bruford, guitarist Steve Howe (until 1981 with Yes) and Rick Wakeman (until 1979 with Yes). Impressed by Bruford's electronic drums, Anderson explained his plan to him, and Bruford initially consented, believing that he should take part on a solo project of Anderson. When the idea came up to work with Chris Squire , he turned it down. Instead, he suggested Tony Levin , with whom he is friends and who subsequently recorded the bass parts on the new album.

Bruford played a studio album of the same name with the band eventually called Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe , of which 750,000 units were sold when it came out. This unofficial Yes line-up toured the world for almost 2 years before Anderson and the record companies involved merged the band with the co-existing California-based original band called Yes / West - against the will of Bruford and Wakeman. In 1991 the controversial Yes album Union was released , in which eight divided Yes musicians and numerous session musicians were involved. In 1992 Bruford left the band; The Symphonic Music of Yes , released in 1993, is his last collaboration with Yes musicians so far.

During his time with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and Yes, Bruford also played a few concerts with Earthworks. In January 1991 the band had even found time to record their third album, ( All Heaven Broke Loose ).

On January 16, 1991 Bruford played his 2000th concert.

Back at King Crimson (1994-1997)

In 1993 Earthworks had given their last concert for the time being. Django Bates' career was so positive that he left Bruford's band. In 1994 Bruford played sessions again, this time for the Buddy Rich Big Band, Joe Hisaishi and Keyfax Software .

Around the time he left Yes, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp had the idea of ​​juxtaposing two equally cast trio units (guitar, bass and drums) within a band. Fripp wanted to form a trio himself with guitarist / bassist Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto , while Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Peter Gabriel drummer Jerry Marotta were planned for the other . In his place, however, Bill Bruford was hired again. This double trio line-up, so called by Fripp, recorded the two studio albums VROOOM (1994) and THRAK (1995) as well as several live albums in the following years . Musically, the new King Crimson line-up once again combined hard rock elements with noise music and the style of the 1980s line-up, which was more oriented towards the classic pop song. While Pat Mastelotto played a clear, constant beat, Bruford took on the role of the free acting drummer, who used this freedom to generate polymetric rhythms.

In King Crimson breaks Bruford played with the World Percussion Ensemble, which also included Chad Wackerman , Luis Conte and Doudou N'Daiye Rose.

Because of the extremely high maintenance costs for a six-piece band, it was not possible to continue working in this way for longer, and Fripp decided to split the band into several varying sub-units with three, four or five musicians who played mainly improvised music at very short notice the result should flow into a new project of the entire group. The projects ProjeKct One , ProjeKct Two , ProjeKct Three and ProjeKct Four were created , which gave several concerts in the USA and Japan over a short period of time. At the end of this band phase, in 1997, Bruford left the band due to new disputes with Fripp in order to be able to devote himself fully to a career in jazz.

Return to jazz

In 1997 Bruford recorded the album If Summer Had its Ghosts with Ralph Towner and Eddie Gomez and founded the band Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (BLUE) with Tony Levin.

At the same time, Bruford started a new edition of Earthworks. The new band toured alternately with BLUE. In 1998 Earthworks' A Part and Yet Apart was released .

Bruford was looking for new ways of marketing and, initially hesitantly, started a website .

In 1999 Eddie Jobson planned a new edition for UK. An album called Legacy with the line-up Jobson, Bruford, Wetton was recorded in 1999 with guest musicians Tony Levin (electric bass), Francis Dunnery (guitar) and Steve Hackett (guitar). Wetton soon left the project, however. Bruford later had his posts deleted. A new recording as Jobson's solo album was initially planned, but the album was never finished because of a dispute over the ownership rights to the recordings.

Bill Bruford in Grožnjan at the International Percussion Summer Camp 2009

Bruford finally turned to jazz. He played with Larry Coryell and recorded the album The Sound of Surprise (2000) with Earthworks . He has now become a musician, composer, manager and sales director through his website.

In 2002 Earthworks' Footloose and Fancy Free was released along with the DVD Footloose in NYC . Since this year he has also been working with the Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap .

In 2004 Bruford founded the record labels Summerfold and Winterfold Records, which enabled him to restructure his diverse tasks. Since then, new releases have appeared on Summerfold and archive material on Winterfold. However, Earthworks concerts became rarer in the following years. Only since 2006 has Bruford started working again as a musician. The two new labels first produced profit in 2007; at this point about 30 titles had been published. In addition, Bruford continued his collaboration with Michiel Borstlap. On January 1, 2009, he surprisingly announced his resignation and withdrew into retirement.


Bruford's style is determined by his talent for polyrhythm (see, for example, the King Crimson albums of the 1980s) and his distinctly melodic, orchestral playing (see, for example, his work with Yes and Patrick Moraz). He is considered a very precise drummer. Characteristic is the sharp, bright sound of its snare drum, which is generated by a rimshot .

In 2016, the Rolling Stone listed Bruford as 16th of the 100 best drummers of all time .

Bruford's drums

Bruford has been an innovator from the start of his career. He introduced jazz drums to progressive rock and in the early 1980s pioneered the new Simmons e-drums, which he spent about fifteen years with King Crimson, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and Yes, combined with an acoustic set. With Yes he played the most expensive drum kit in the world in 1991/1992 (two Simmons SDXs worth 40,000 US dollars).

Only in his jazz band Earthworks did he gradually return to a purely acoustic kit.

Bruford recently played a rather small kit compared to other drummers ( Tama Starclassic or Starclassic Performer), consisting of:

  • 14x6 ″ BB146 (Bill Bruford Signature Snare)

Since the early days of Yes, the exceptionally high pitched snare drum has been Bruford's trademark. This special sound was created by the fact that Yes bassist Chris Squire preferred to play particularly loud and high-pitched, which brought Bruford to tune his instrument accordingly high and assertive.

  • 10x9 ″, 12x11 ″, 13x12 ″ tom toms
  • 16x16 ″ floor tom
  • 20x16 "or 22x16" bass drum

Basin ( Paiste ):

  • 13 ″ Dimensions Thin Heavy Hi-Hat
  • 16 ″ traditional thin crash
  • 20 ″ Signature Flat Ride
  • 18 ″ Dimensions Medium Ride
  • 20 ″ Traditional medium Swish China
  • 5 ″ AA Meinl and 8 LP Cowbells

Bruford's arrangement of the individual percussion instruments is unusual. A row of cymbals in front of a row of drums , all drums are horizontal, with the snare drum in the center and two tom-toms each in a symmetrical arrangement on the left and right of it (a structure according to the pitch, ascending from right to left). This arrangement is technically more demanding, but in contrast creates new play possibilities.



King Crimson

Steve Howe

  • Beginnings (1975)
  • The Steve Howe Album (1979)
  • Turbulence (1991)

Chris Squire

  • Fish out of Water (1975)

Rick Wakeman

  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973)
  • The Classical Connection 2 (1991)

Roy Harper

  • HQ (1975)

Absolute elsewhere

  • In Search of Ancient Gods (1976)

Pavlov's Dog

  • At the Sound of the Bell (1976)


  • UK (1978)


  • Feels Good to Me (1977)
  • One of a Kind (1978)
  • Bruford - Rock Goes to College (2006, recorded in 1979)
  • The Bruford Tapes (1979, live)
  • Gradually Going Tornado (1980)
  • Master Strokes: 1978–1985 (1986, compilation)


With Patrick Moraz

  • Music for Piano and Drums (1983)
  • Flags (1985)
  • In Tokyo (2009)

Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe

With some yes musicians

  • 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 and Yet Apart (1999)
  • Sound of Surprise (2001)
  • Footloose and Fancy Free (2002, live)
  • Random Acts of Happiness (2004, live)

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)
  • BLUE 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 Dance, Every Word a Song (2004)
  • In Two Minds (2007)
  • In Concert in Holland (2004)

With David Torn

  • Cloud About Mercury (1986)
  • Door X (1990)

With Kazumi Watanabe

  • The Spice of Life (1987)
  • The Spice of Life Too (1988)

With piano circus

  • Skin and Wire (2009)

The last published studio work.


  • Bill Bruford: The Autobiography. Jawbone, London, 2009. ISBN 978-1-905792-19-1
  • Dan Hedges: Yes. The Authorized Biography. Sidewick & Jackson, London, 1981.

Web links

Commons : Bill Bruford  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. Rolling Stone , March 31, 2016, accessed August 6, 2017 .