Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bruford Levin - 1998 "Upper Extremities"

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (B.L.U.E.) was a musical group composed of drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Torn, and trumpeter Chris Botti.
The group's origins can be traced to David Torn's album Cloud About Mercury (1987) which featured the above-listed musicians, except with Mark Isham playing trumpet. Enjoying their musical chemistry, the performers kept in touch, and formed B.L.U.E. in the mid-1990s.
The band had very unusual sound with elements of blues, rock and ambient music. Bruford and Levin were both longtime members of King Crimson.

Bill Bruford and Tony Levin were the mainstays of the 1980s and 1990s King Crimson, one of rock's most consistently creative groups, and together are among the best rhythm sections in rock music. They played with David Torn on Torn's 1987 release Clouds About Mercury, and in 1998 they got together with him again. As on Clouds, they formed a quartet with a trumpeter, but instead of Mark Isham they enlisted Chris Botti, since Levin had worked on Botti's 1997 Midnight Without You release. On about half the tracks, Bruford, Levin and Torn display a high-energy rock music, like the opening "Cerulean Sea," with Torn and Bruford playing in polyrhythms, and "Cracking the Midnight Glass," a powerful piece with echoes of Led Zeppelin that Bruford calls "the power trio incarnate." The three also play some quiet, atmospheric music on "Thick With Thin Air," which is also one of the showpieces here for Bruford's electronic drums. Chris Botti plays on the other half, and provides them with a cool jazz feeling. His melodic work is highlighted on the jazzy Bruford composition "Original Sin" and in a lovely duet with Levin on "Fin de Si├Ęcle," but his trumpet adds coloring in the fanfares of "Presidents Day," the haunting lead of "Deeper Blue," and the reprise of an etude from Levin's solo album World Diary. There are also a number of short interludes of Bruford playing a derelict piano in Levin's garage, and both Bruford and Levin simultaneously playing a drum and bass contraption.
I saw these guys live and must say that this may be the finest moment to date of Bruford and Tony Levin. Bill Bruford's drumming was absolutely SICK and Levin was just so professional and soulful that it just wasn't real. The show prompted me to get the disc they were selling at the show and it was just as good as the live experience. Chris Botti was ultracool, with some Miles davis-like trumpet, and guitarist David Torn has some interesting textures and loops. What they played at the show is all here on the disc, and if you're into avante-jazz or King Crimson, you simply cannot pass this one up. These guys are incredible musicians, and since Bruford & Levin are no longer in Crimso, perhaps they should be doing more of this stuff. This isn't mindless noodling, but solid avante-jazz. Smart musicianship which doesn't bore. I won't go into the individual titles, it's all well executed. If you did dig this album, go to Tony Levin's website and order the double live disc of the shows too. That's another killer.

Track listing

 1. Cerulean Sea (Bruford/Levin/Torn) 7:03
    Interlude (Bruford) 0:23
 2. Original Sin (Bruford) 4:55
 3. Etude Revisited (Botti/Bruford/Levin/Torn) 4:57
 4. A Palace of Pearls [on a blade of grass] (Botti/Bruford/Levin/Torn) 5:33
    Interlude (Bruford) 0:19
 5. Fin de Siecle (Botti/Bruford/Levin) 5:22
 6. DrumBass (Bruford/Levin) 0:54
 7. Cracking the Midnight Glass (Bruford/Levin/Torn) 6:06
 8. Torn DrumBass (Bruford/Levin/Torn) 0:54
 9. Thick with Thin Air (Bruford/Levin/Torn) 3:28
10. Cobalt Canyons (Bruford/Levin/Torn) 3:53
    Interlude (Bruford) 0:27
11. Deeper Blue (Botti/Bruford/Levin) 4:12
12. Presidents Day (Botti/Bruford/Levin/Torn) 6:22


Bill Bruford (drums, percussion),
Tony Levin (bass, chapman stick),
David Torn (guitar, loops),
Chris Botti (trumpet).



  2. How could i have missed this release back then? Strong lineup. Bill got together with with guitarist Ralph Towner around this time period. It must have been a great concert. Mark Isham recorded a LP back around 79 or 80 with David Torn.