“My idea for the UFQ, was inspired in part, by British jazz drummer Bill Bruford's original 1987 Earthworks group. Bruford had been one of the first proponents of using electronic drums in jazz, notably with his Simmons SDS 7 electronic drum kit, in addition to the sounds of a Yamaha DX-21 synthesizer. Bruford was able to use the kit to play chords, melodies and samples, creating an other-worldly texture to his compositions. 

Bruford enlisted the acoustic tones of tenor and soprano saxophonist Iain Ballamy, the acoustic bassist Mick Hutton, and later, acoustic/electric bassist Tim Harries, to counter-balance his electric timbres, and those of the keyboardist, “the disgustingly talented” Django Bates, who would often double Ballamy on his E flat tenor horn.

The balance worked amazingly well, the music was incredible, as Earthworks' success over the last twenty years can attest. Bruford had sought out the best and brightest youth of the British jazz scene; open-minded and energetic, however, as time wore on, the limitations of this new technology took it's toll on him, and Earthworks ultimately re-emerged in 1999 as an all acoustic group.

With the memories of that brilliant Earthworks combo still fresh in my mind, I was extremely fortunate to discover the legendary San Francisco jazz saxophonist Charles Unger and his wonderful pianist, Sam Peoples. Their love of both jazz, and the electronic music of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report's Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, mirrored my own. 

Following many more enthusiastic discussions with Unger, I offered up the idea of our own unusual group, and by using Bruford's “recipe”, I added the forward thinking and energetic hip-hop bassist Mike Shea. With Unger on saxophones, and Shea on acoustic and electric bass, I opted to use a hybrid kit, being fairly sure it would help to balance the electronic samples of Peoples' keyboards. It’s a lot of fun, and if we play any jazz, let us know!

With the UFQ, I’m not only able play chords, melodies and drum samples, I can also play world, techno, and jazz timbres, not unlike the “chordal drumming” made famous by the original Earthworks band, on songs like like “My Heart Declares a Holiday”, “Libreville”, or “Making a Song and Dance”. Improvising over those lines is different on any given night, which was one of the things I’ve always loved about playing jazz..”

-E. Doctor Smith
area 51 The Evolution of the Unidentified Flying Quartet...