This group of
jazz musicians was put together by the acclaimed drummer Bill Bruford who made a name for himself with the band Yes
from the late 1960s until 1972 before playing for acts such as Genesis, Roy
Harper and King Crimson among others.
influenced by jazz in his performances he started to look at options for an
electronic drumkit to be used in this genre and in
1986 he formed The Bill Bruford Quartet with the the saxophonist Iain Ballamy,
the keyboardist Django Bates and the double bass
player Mick Hutton. They went
to Japan on their debut tour and it was during
this time that they renamed themselves Bill Bruford’s
Earthworks. Also in 1986 they
recorded their first album Earthworks.
In 1987 they
continued touring nationally and internationally and ended the year with 22
concert dates in Germany.
The next year they returned to a tour schedule from the summer but
friction had started between the members and Iain Ballamy
took time off the tour to spend time with his girlfriend Jess, who became
his wife, as she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This meant that the final concert of
the tour would be performed by a trio rather than a quartet and Mick Hutton
left the band after the tour was finished.
In 1988 the
group were joined by their new bass player Tim Harries and in November of
that year recorded the album Dig!. The following month Bill Bruford got involved with the project put together by
Jon Anderson of Yes which was named Anderson Bruford
Wakeman Howe and toured and recorded with them
for much of 1989, although making time in June to perform with Earthworks
for 12 dates in Europe.
In 1990 Earthworks toured in June and October but Bruford continued also his work with Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe when he
recorded a 2nd album with them and became involved in a Yes
Earthworks went to Germany in January and recorded All Heaven Broke
Loose, which was to be named as their “most accomplished item to
date”. They toured Japan and Europe later that year but had to wait as Bruford was touring with Yes in the first half of the
year. The next year in 1992
they performed in Germany and then perfomed
again for the Trans-Canada jazz festivals which were after the last
performances by Bruford on the Yes tour. In 1993 they toured Germany but Bruford
realised that the electronic drums were proving to be something of a
handicap and after Django Bates starting
branching out with solo albums they gave a performance in that September
and then decided to call it a day.
The album Live –
Stamping Ground which consisted of some of their concert material was
released in 1994 and followed by the Heavenly
In 1997 Bill Bruford became acquainted with the pianist Steve
Hamilton and after putting together another quartet with the saxophonist Patrack Clahar and the double
bassist Geoff Gascoigne, a new version of Earthworks was born. This time the electronic side of the
band was replaced with an acoustic sound with just the odd occasion of a
synthesiser. The following year they released their 4th album A Part, and Yet Apart which would
appear on the group’s new record label.
They went to
the United States to perform in January 1999 and returned
there in October for further gigs.
They also gave performances at various East European jazz festivals
and Bill Bruford was now looking after much of
the administration of the group as well as being their manager.
When the new
millennium came along they were still busy and continued touring Europe, Asia, South Africa, Japan and the UK before releasing their The Sound of Surprise in May
2001. Later in 2001 they toured
the US again, appeared at the Cork Jazz Festival and Patrick Clahar was asked to leave. He was replaced by the saxophonist
Tim Garland. The recordings
they made of the concert at New York City’s Bottom Line on the American tour
of 2001 were used for their live double album Footloose and Fancy Free that was issued in 2002.
They toured South America and in 2003 they headlined at London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
while on a UK tour. In March of the
following year they released their Random
Acts of Happiness and Bill Bruford started up
the two record labels Summerfold and Winterfold.
Bill Bruford was getting increasingly frustrated with the
requirements for the band to perform in the United States so made the decision to use local
musicians if the need arose for the band’s concerts there. Steve Hamilton left the band in 2004
and made the way for the pianist Gwilym Simcock and from April 2004 the band toured the UK for the next 3 months or so alongside
The Underground Orchestra which was led by Tim Garland. For this project they were known as
the Earthworks Underground Orchestra and released an album in 2006 under
guitarist Laurence Cottle joined the band around
2005 and in 2006 they toured South East Asia followed by various European countries. The British version of the group
then made an appearance in New York.
Money was tight for the band by this point but Bill Bruford incorproated the
money he made from his drum clinics.
little from the band aside from two DVDs of anthologies being
released. They gave no live
gigs that year and after deciding that they were no longer economically viable
2008 saw them making their last live appearance after 22 years and the
release of 10 albums at Ronnie Scott’s and officially disbanded in
2009 when Bill Bruford said he was retiring from
performing and would continue the rest of his career as a teacher and the
other members were onto to follow their own musical careers.