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 Earthworks 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.It sounds simple but the band only found its direction through serious live playing. No theoretical studio concoction here. Japan Europe and the UK were all visited before the release of the first album. Immediately heads turned.
"This a heady concoction indeed and one which joyously breaks down all sorts of musical barriers in its path." (The Times)
"It mixes up styles moods and meters as effortlessly as it ignores musical boundaries." (Wall St. Journal)
The next five years saw the band consolidate and build on this early success with a second LP for Editions EG Dig? and a series of major jazz festival appearances in London Glasgow Frankfurt Stuttgart Montreal and Chicago amongst others. Earthworks' third album All Heaven Broke Loose was recorded in Germany in sadly approximately the same one hundred hours at the beginning of 1993 that it took the Allied Forces to defeat Iraq; the title is perhaps an optimistically ironic comment on that unhappy event.
"Earthworks makes jazz out of just about anything handy on its third release for Editions EG." (Jazziz)
"Bruford is able to play with the kind of flexibility and nuance that simply wouldn't work in... Genesis Yes or King Crimson." (4-stars Downbeat)
But it is ultimately live where jazz happens. Recorded mostly in America and partly in England on tour in 1992 the band's fourth CD Stamping Ground was indeed live one-take no overdubs and very real.
"...fine groovemanship and advancing techniques on tuned electronic percussion." (4-stars Downbeat)
Earthworks' progress was temporarily halted in 1994-96 when Bruford returned to active service with King Crimson whose double-trio double-drummer incarnation toured the world giving over 120 concerts. In 1997 however business was resumed with the release of Heavenly Bodies on Virgin; this takes a broad overview of events since 1986 culling eleven tracks from across all four CDs and adding previously unreleased live material. It is for the newcomer the ideal entry point to the ferocious agility with which the band negotiates the rapids and for the long standing customer an excellent "greatest hits" package.
1998 saw the release of Bill's "chamber trio" outing with guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner and the legendary bassist Eddie Gomez. This revealed an ever-increasing maturity in his writing for small group which he wanted to take further and Earthworks was revitalised as his main touring and writing outlet at the end of that year.
This second edition of the band continues to use the best British talent available and having effectively jettisoned electronic percussion is now revisiting the broadly acoustic sax-piano-bass-drums line up. Featuring Steve Hamilton who trained in the US and has lent his services to Bobby Hutcherson Freddie Hubbard and Gary Burton among others; Patrick Clahar the fast-rising London tenorist best known for his work with Incognito and Mark Hodgson (bass) this is the quartet that produced "A Part and Yet Apart" (1999 ) "The Sound of Surprise" (2001) and the 2002 double combo CD and DVD " Footloose and Fancy Free" / "Footloose in NYC ". Now featuring the brilliant multi-instrumentalist and composer Tim Garland and the UK's brightest young pianist Gwilym Simcock the ever-evolving Earthworks has recorded "Random Acts of Happiness" (2004) and "Earthworks Underground Orchestra" (2006) and continues to tour internationally.
Bill Bruford's Earthworks now featuring Tim Garland (saxes ex-Chick Corea) who replaces Patrick Clahar continues to tour internationally on a regular basis.