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In Two Minds by Bill Bruford and Michiel Borstlap

Drummer-percussionist Bill Bruford powerful percussive rhythms drove some of the best progressive rock bands during that genre’s heydays in the 1970s. He was the authoritative force behind Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and UK, and his work during that time stands out as a testament to solid musicianship punctuated by the ability to handle complex polyrhythms with ease. Since those days he is best known for Bill Bruford’s Earthworks. Created in 1986, this ensemble has moved Bruford back to his jazz roots with a rock sensibility. Pianist-keyboardist Michiel Borstlap graduated in 1992 from the Hilversum Conservatory and has worked with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, George Duke and Jimmy Haslip, to name a few. He is also the composer of the world’s first Arabic opera, Opera Avicenna.

In Two Minds is the second recording of these two musicians together. Recorded live over a series of four concerts in Norway and Great Britain, the 12 tracks contain a wide assortment of styles in much the same way John Surman’s recorded duets with Jack DeJohnette traverse a huge landscape in fresh and exciting ways.

While the music was all handled in a jazz manner, with no preconceptions - just two artists walking on stage and playing, there is little of the common doodling and avant-garde-ish tendencies that tend to rear their head at such musical gatherings. Instead we get pieces in a variety of lengths, from just over three minutes to just under eight, that are all interesting and have their own tales to tell. "Duplicity" is a sly, witty and darkly humorous sketch that sneaks from a slight shuffle into a turbulent piano explosion, before calming into a short drum solo that takes us back to a reflection of the opening passage before dissolving into shimmering impressionistic watercolors. "Flirt," the shortest piece, places Borstlap on an electronic keyboard. The groove Bruford creates fits perfectly with the keyboard’s color. You can hear the two developing this sound concept to its fitting conclusion.

"Sheer Reckless Abandon" may not be precisely as the title would imply, but the two do generate a great amount of heat and fire. Bruford sticks mainly to "Latin-esque" percussive sounds early in the piece before turning it around to fashion a sweetly swinging diatribe. Borstlap picks up on this thread and adjusts his playing accordingly before turning the reigns back to Bruford for a short but hip little solo. The piece ends with a quick trip to 1930s barrelhouse music and then a quick tag.

The joy of this music is that you never know what is coming next, and the more you listen to their inter-workings the more you come to understand how acutely attuned they are to each other. It’s a shame the audience reactions were edited out; I’m sure they were bowled over as much as any listener would be.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bill Bruford and Michiel Borstlap
  • CD Title: In Two Minds
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Summerfold Records
  • Tracks: Kinship, In Two Minds, From The Source We Tumble Headlong, Flirt, Low Tide Camber Sands, The Art Of Conversation, Conference Of The Bees, Sheer Reckless Abandon, Duplicity, Shadow Dance, The Odd One Out and All Blues
  • Musicians: Bill Bruford (drums, log drum), Michiel Borstlap (piano, keyboards)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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