Drummer Bill Bruford is one of modern music’s overlooked geniuses — someone who could make music
with two paint sticks and an ice cream pail.
Just don’t expect anything and you’ll get more — much more. Bruford’s Rock Goes To College is an important musical moment, documenting one of only two live gigs that the lineup of Bruford, guitarist Allan Holdsworth, keyboardist Dave Stewart, bassist Jeff Berlin and vocalist Annette Peacock, would play as a five-piece.
Listening to the jazz/fusion/rock quintet’s1979 performance for the BBC-TV program
"Rock Goes To College," one is resigned to lament that this collective didn’t stay together longer — if
for nothing more than the tantalizing prospect of watching Holdsworth and Berlin’s fingers together
floating across the frets. In Berlin, Bruford had a string thumper who could be prince or heir to then-reigning electric bassist Jaco Pastorius; and Holdsworth’s sweeping legato playing and
near-impossible finger stretches gave him an unmistakable sound.
As Bruford asserts in the liners, "There was only one guitarist in the world who could
deliver in that passionate, liquid style, and there was certainly no bass player in the U.K. who could
Listening to Holdsworth and Berlin blaze and bop over "Beelzebub" is an almost-terrifying act for lesser musicians. Holdsworth’s supple lines on the fantastic "The Sahara Of Snow" (part two) are
mind-bending enough, until you remember that this is a guitar he’s playing. Keyboardist Stewart inevitably takes a back seat pitted against such showstoppers, but he shines in a quiet way on "Forever Until Sunday," a cool, moody piece that sounds like rain at 3 a.m.
Vocalist Peacock makes an appearance on "Back To The Beginning" and "Adios A La Pasada
(Goodbye To The Past)." Her cool, angular style is a bit jarring, but it meshes perfectly with the music.
Rock Goes To College clocks in at a modest 42 minutes, and the sound is a bit muddy, but that doesn’t detract from the performances. Bruford’s musical journey had started long before he formed his own band in the late 1970s, but this album shows how far he had "progressed" since his days with Yes and first go-round with King Crimson. Since then, Bruford has managed to do what so many of his contemporaries could never do — step away from the past. Here’s to Bruford’s past, present and future.