Author Topic: Bruford and the Dixie Dregs  (Read 2732 times)

Offline AlexMatson

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Bruford and the Dixie Dregs
« on: July 22, 2008, 03:54:21 PM »
When I was just a teenager, I was blessed or cursed to be around some older musicians who turned me on to late 70's prog rock. The two albums that made the biggest impression on me were One Of A Kind by Bill Bruford and What If by the Dixie Dregs. There have, of course, been countless 'fusion' bands before and since. But to me, these bands, and these albums in particular, have a warmth and melodicism that makes them special. And Dave Stewart, Bruford's keyboardist, got absolutely amazing tones that I still strive for. On the song 5g, there's a sort of very short delay on his Rhodes that really creates a beautiful sound. And his Prophet and Hammond sounds on a song like Fainting in Coils are gorgeous.

Dave Stewart became a columnist for Keyboard magazine later. He also won that magazine's readers poll for best keyboardist for many years. I wrote to him care of the magazine, and was amazed to get a six page handwritten letter from him a few weeks later. I had asked him about whether he would recommend focusing on classical or jazz in college to be able to play as well as him. His advice was that universities are not in the business of teaching musicians to be unique and that I should, as Zappa said, "go to the library and educate yourself, if you've got the guts." To my ears, anyway, his style is unique. He has jazz chops, but eschews typical jazz chords, and in fact outlines this approach in two books he wrote. I own them both, and they are not only interesting, but quite funny. Those good old Brits...

I've never become a player on that level. Part of the problem - and I'm interested to know if other players feel the same - is that I also like relatively simple music, and have often felt that players seem to either gravitate to 'simple and soulful' or obvious virtuosos. Ideally, one would like to do both well - players like Bill Payne and Bruce Hornsby (both of whom I was lucky enough to open for as a member of the Samples) can do this. I've decided to rededicate myself to learning everything I can about composing and performing music, and it's going to require a huge effort - I'm largely self taught, and have many bad habits to overcome. But I just can't muster any enthusiasm for the repetitiveness of many pop bands anymore. As Bill Bruford said in an interview, it's like having the exact same conversation every night. But when I was younger, I used to fantasize about being in a band that could play a song like Night Meets Light (the second link below) and follow it up with something like Dylan's One Too Many Mornings.

But all this is too big a subject to be covered in one thread. For now, here are a couple of videos for those who would like to check out a couple of great bands.
As usual, the sound quality can't compare to the original vinyl, but it'll give folks an idea.

I look forward to the exchange of ideas here!

Offline Murph

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Bruford and the Dixie Dregs
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2008, 03:47:27 PM »
wow..what you've written really stikes a chord with me. You're right that you're cracking open a really broad, deep and squishy topic. I feel compelled to respond because it really resonates with me at the moment.

My attitudes about making and appreciating music have changed several times over the years. I was once a music major at a pretty good music school. I got a lot out of my time there but not nearly what I should have. It's so interesting to quote Zappa here. There's a lot of truth to that, but I think it can also be deceiving and even kind of specious. What I mean is, it's very difficult to teach people to be an artist. School creates a great environment where you are learning the craft of your instrument by mimicing previous masters while communing with others trying to do the same. It's all just setting a stage for your own journey as a musician though, and by itself can lead you to a dead end if you never emerge from the endless task of working on technique and repertoire, or get stuck in rigid "right and wrong" ideologies. The reason I find quoting Zappa here so great is that in a way he truly embodies both extremes. He is in one sense a complete original who very boldly and prolifically followed his own muse. On the other hand, as both composer and musician he often emphasized complexity and virtuosity to the point of absurdity.  I think the key to creating something worthwhile is to always continue your education whether formal or informal, and work hard at it while at the same time remembering to recognize, cultivate and try to express the ideas, concepts and inspirations inside you that flower out of that work/journey. Nobody's class or book or concept is the "right" thing, but working on whichever of these things you do put time into can enrich both your technical and creative palettes, especially when combined with a continuing education of non-musical ideas and art, so that you maybe have something more interesting to say when it's your turn to "speak".

I also think a lot of the baby was thrown out with the bath water when it comes to fusion from the 70's. Sure, there was silly stuff but there was also great, amazing and beautiful stuff. not to mention Stuff (Richard there's a Rhodes sound)

Thanks for stirring my inner artist philosopher with your post. Cheers.

Offline sean

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Bruford and the Dixie Dregs
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2008, 10:53:27 AM »
At the complexity/virtuosity/fusion/prog end of the spectrum:

I absolutely adore the Dixie Dregs.  Their compositions are great, and then they added the virtuosity on top of that.  They blow people away at every concert (despite some of the clams that you can find on youtube).

But I think that the root of their brilliance is the compositions themselves.  Tunes that I can whistle in the parking lot after a show.  Melodies that are memorable.  A huge variety in textures, tempos, energy, and moods.

And elsewhere in the spectrum:

I absolutely adore NRBQ.  Comparitively crude composition and instrumentation, however...  Their virtuosity is hidden behind the curtain of their garage-band persona, but their songwriting is astounding (even without Al).  Their ability to get a wide variety of textures, rhythms, energy, and moods from relatively simple instrumentation always impresses me at their shows.  Twenty songs in a row with just drums-bass-telecaster-and-clavinet, and they don't sound the same-old-same-old.

Everyone has their own taste for music, both the audience and the musicians.

I equate the complexity/virtuosity music to great thai food -- very great to eat, a wonderful treat, can't wait to get more.

Other music may be like hamburgers or meatloaf -- good wholesome satisfying stuff.

... and then there is '80s hair-bands and backstreet boys -- cheese whiz.