Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce

Most people only knew Jack Bruce as the bass player of the legendary band, Cream. He wrote most of the songs with his friend, the poet, Pete Brown. After Cream, he released some of the most eccentric and personal solo records in the rock genre. He pushed edges constantly. His first real solo recording was a set of his own jazz compositions, called Things We Like. He was an accomplished conservatory trained multi instrumentalist and vocalist. You probably remember  Pretty Flamingo by Manfred Man from 1966 without knowing who you were listening to. He was the bass player of that band.  He worked with some of the best Avant Jazz Modern musicians as a player and vocalist. Carla Bley recruited him and John Mcglaughlin for her big band jazz opera, Escalator Over The Hill. He worked with Carla's husband, Michael Mantler singing Mantler's interpretation of No Answer by Samuel Beckett and on a few subsequent brilliant recordings. He worked for a few years with the latino jazz big band composer, Kip Hanrahan. Meanwhile releasing his solo recordings. Through the mid 70's, Carla Bley played in his band! Bruce was a very big influence on me and opened many doors into completely different worlds of music.
I was saddened to hear that he died today. He had recently released a new recording, Silver Rails but had to cancel some live performances because of his health. Truly a creative visionary in his own universe, a uniquely personal artist who never strove for stardom, he was true to his spirit and I have to humbly thank him for the effect he had on my life. Here are two videos. The first is a recording from 1970, soon after the break up of Cream withThe Tony Williams Lifetime. I saw one of the first performances of this band in of all places, Toledo, Ohio. Bruce with his new clear lucite Dan Armstrong Bass pacing the floor with the sheet music laid out like dance instructions. The guitar player was John Mcglaughlin and the Keyboardist was Larry Young. Tony Williams had been previously playing with Miles Davis and the music the Lifetime band was creating was truly dangerous! They cleared the auditorium of the people who had come thinking that they were going to hear some Cream type rock. What was happing was totally new and radically different. I had to grow new ears! It was truly a performance that changed the way I listened to and understood music. I had to know more!
Here is another video from 2008. Jack was instrumental in putting together a band to commemorate Tony Williams after he passed away. The guitarist is Vernon Reid, the keyboard artist is John Medeski and the drummer is Cindy Blackman-Santana...the wife of Carlos and the bass player is Jack. 

Jack Bruce 
14 May, 1943/25 October, 2014

One more piece for you
Shadow Song (Mario's In)
From Kip Hanrahan's  1984 release Verical Currency
Jack sings, plays bass and keyboards on this cut.

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