If you don’t like, or are not interested in jazz, forget this CD, because jazz is what you’ll find inside. That’s what master Bill Bruford does now, and in my opinion he’s working brilliantly. After leaving the electronic sounds of the first Earthworks incarnation, Bruford inaugurated with “A Part And Yet Apart” (1998) the acoustic version of his jazzmen, which would consolidate in the excellent “The Sound Of Surprise” (2001) and the indispensable double live CD and DVD “Footloose And Fancy Free” / “Footloose In NYC” (2002).
“Random Acts Of Happiness”, recorded live May 13th and 14th 2003 at Yoshi’s, Oakland, continues the technical but extremely vivid sound of the new Earthworks, with the addition of Tim Garland’s brilliant saxophone. Bruford is simply at the height of his skills, displaying inventiveness and subtlety throughout the 60 minutes of the CD, as his chums Steve Hamilton and Mark Hodgson do on piano and bass respectively.
The repertoire is quite heterogeneous, and all four members participate actively in the composition and / or jamming of the pieces. Garland contributes some gems of his own, like “Turn And Return” (2.49) or the long “Bajo Del Sol” (8.28), in a cadenced and melodic mood. Bruford adds his imaginative percussion, rich in references and a with a wide sound palette.
For his part, the veteran drummer brings some compositions, like “Seems Like A Lifetime Ago” (3.55), which reflect his ironic and gentle approach, or “With Friends Like These…” (2.47), a drum solo that, in spite of being short, illustrates perfectly Bruford’s great attributes.
There’s also room for some older material, like “My Heart Declares A Holiday” (5.12), a classic from Earthworks’ early years, enhanced here thanks to Tim Garland’s stirring performance; also featured here are both parts of “One Of A Kind”. Even if these compositions date from Bruford’s beginnings as a solo artist, and those were times of jazz-rock, they fit perfectly in the current acoustic quartet format.
Bill Bruford has always chosen the unpredictable way, and of course playing in small jazz clubs isn’t what we would call “easy money”, but Earthworks is a brilliant and unconventional project, with 17 years creating refreshing and inventive music. Naturally, for anyone who appreciates and enjoys jazz.