Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bill Bruford and Piano Circus Play Colin Riley's Music

The further we travel into the 21st Century the more it becomes clear that the formerly hard and fast segregations of musical genres are dissolving, little by little. This is of course a process that began to become a huge factor in '60s musical circles. After some fluctuations in the community about whether purity of style was to dictate continuing directions or not, we now have those who integrate whatever elements necessarily to their personal musical expression versus those who work more or less exclusively within a set of particular genre norms.

Today's CD decidedly follows the way of integration. It spans a number of genres, and does so engagingly. Skin and Wire (Summerfold) devotes its aural space to the music of Colin Riley. Progrock, fusion and minimalist/modern concert styles fall together into a synthesis that takes on individuality thanks to the predilections of the composer, and the virtuosity and musical depth of drummer-percussionist Bill Bruford and the Piano Circus collective.

Acoustic instruments are sometimes altered electronically by the composer. For example Piano Circus plays the conventional acoustic pianos for which they originally became known, but with the digital transformations that occur in varying degrees throughout, they do not always strictly sound like a piano ensemble. Bill Bruford's percussive array is also subjected to various transformations at times. All this leads to an ambient sound that can and does groove like hell at various points in the program, yet still has a three-dimensional depth and staging that expands subtly and transforms the conventional ensemble recording into something more spacious.

It's Bill Bruford in all this who most fully amazes with his incredibly musical approach. At times it sounds like a concerto for Bruford and ensemble. At times the ensemble predominates. At all times Skin and Wire operates on a high level of musical interest. It's certainly to me one of the year's most important fusion hybrid offerings.

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