Robert Fripp's beautiful but brief compilation, Pie Jesu, features material from A Blessing of Tears and The Gates of Paradise; the CD acts as an appealing, accessible introduction to his contemporary Frippertronics, which Fripp appropriately terms "Soundscapes." The music, created entirely from guitar and effects, including loops, delay, and repetition, is easy to consume and digest – a very comfortable, tranquil, flowing sound, somewhat different from his '70s Frippertronics excursions. While some critics have inappropriately termed/described his Soundscapes series as new age music, it is far from it. Fripp has been experimenting with these sounds through a variety of structures and presentations for more than 25 years.
Robert Fripp's "1999" CD from 1994 was released during a time when the legendary guitarist was making a major comeback. King Crimson had returned after a decade-long absence and Fripp re-emerged with his first solo performances in almost as long. 1994 also marked the birth of Fripp's 'soundscaping' technique which was and still is an extension of his 'Frippertronic' experiments of the 1970's and '80's. Instead of using two tape machines as had been the norm with 'Frippertronics', Soundscapes utilized digital technology and guitar-synthesizers to create and loop the endless mass of sound created by Fripp from his guitar. The idea was not a new one but the sound definitely was.
Fusing the talents of Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, and the California Guitar Trio, you'd be wrong to assume that The Bridge Between is a boring album of guitar aerobics for guitar enthusiasts. This is a wonderful piece of work. Its most dubious attribute is to sometimes descend into Sky (the Anglo-Australian outfit formed by John Williams, Francis Monkman etc) territory in its medieval harpsichord delivery ("Passacaglia," "Contrapunctus"). However "Kanon Power" and standouts "Bicycling to Afghanistan" and "Blockhead" are fretboard knitted excellence. Unfortunately, the latter two are separated by a five-minute downbeat – "Blue" – and the set is spoiled by a near-13-minute endgame "Threnody for Souls in Torment," which would be better placed elsewhere. None the less, you can always hit the stop button after "Passacaglia" or better, stick "Afghan" and "Blockhead" on repeat!
While the music made by Bill Bruford's earlier Earthworks band was consistently more interesting, his current lineup continues to make great strides given its more traditional stance (post-bop acoustic piano/saxophone quartet verses ultra-modern Euro-jazz fusion). On the live Footloose and Fancy Free, the group exceeds its own studio performances with room to spare. The lovely ballad "Come to Dust" is a fine showcase for pianist Steve Hamilton, and Bruford's punchy drumming moves a complex "Triplicity." Even non-Earthworks tunes from Bruford's late-'90s collaborations with Tony Levin ("Original Sin") and Ralph Towner ("If Summer Had Its Ghosts") get inspiring interpretations as well, thanks to the well-seasoned playing of both tenor/alto saxophonist Patrick Calahar and Hamilton.
This recording chronicles the live performances of Bruford Levin Upper Extremities from 1998. The disc showcases the band's unique blend of jazzy modes with Crimson-esque textures and, occasionally, just plain weirdness. Many of the tracks become looser jams in the live performance. For those who saw this tour, the disc will be a great memento. For those who didn't, it will serve as a shining example of what they missed, and encouragement to be more careful not to pass up subsequent tours. The band is Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, Chris Botti, and David Torn.