Bill Bruford Talks Guitar

June 1, 2009

“THE GREAT THING ABOUT THE guitarists I’ve worked with is that they are all so different in their approaches,” enthuses drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford, who, as a member of Yes, King Crimson, UK, Genesis, and numerous other heavyweight bands, has worked alongside many of the world’s most innovative players. Here, Bruford muses on a few of his favorites.

“STEVE HOWE brought a lot to the table. His solos were always terrifically melodic and well shaped, and became so much a part of the pieces that it was difficult to separate the two. He also brought a vastly expanded range of colors to the instrument.

“ALLAN HOLDSWORTH was like a spider zooming up and down a web. As a writing drummer, I was always trying to provide some sort of slower counterpoint to his rapid stuff, rather than trying to play the things he was playing.

“ROBERT FRIPP is disarming about his technical difficulties, maintaining that he has learned music as others learn French, implying a grind, sweat, and repetition. In the ‘minimalist’ ’80s, he opted for a sixteenth-note continuum that often started at the beginning of a tune and continued without a break until the end.

“ADRIAN BELEW is the Elephant Man! Being a drummer, too, Adrian has a great sense of time and the weight of where he’s going to place things relative to the rhythmic line. He doesn’t tread all over whatever rhythmic stuff is cooking underneath, but complements it.

“DAVID TORN had no interest in competing to be the fastest gunslinger in the West, so he moved into a world of micro-scales, Arabic tonalities, and effects processing, which gave him a whole new slant. I loved his work on the records we did, especially Cloud About Mercury.”

Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, chronicles Bruford’s career, from co-founding Yes in 1968 to his recent retirement. CDs and DVDs—including a free two-disc sampler of Bruford’s jazz recordings— are available at

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