JACK BRUCE

Jack BruceJack Bruce is best known as the thunderous yet delicate bass player and singer in the 60s ‘Supergroup’ Cream whose short career laid a huge foundation stone in the basement of Blues-Rock. A gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer, Jack was at the heart of the London jazz and Blues scene before setting up Cream to form the cutting edge of progressive music in the late 60s. Jack went on to explore the further reaches of jazz, Latin music and several versions of the ‘power-trio’, and he continued to push boundaries until the end.

John Simon Asher Bruce was born in 1943 just outside Glasgow, Scotland and at the end of his formal education won a scholarship at the Scottish Academy of Music to study cello. He left after a few months because his tutors showed little interest in his ideas, so he went on tour to Italy playing string bass in a dance band. Further work in England with more jazz oriented groups led to Jack joining Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies and drummer Charlie Watts in Blues Incorporated in 1962 which became the ‘house-band’ at The Ealing Blues Club. Keyboard player and vocalist Graham Bond then had Jack playing jazz with Ginger Baker on drums and guitarist John McLaughlin, but Ginger forced Jack out of the band after a couple of years, some say at knife-point! John Mayall‘s Bluesbreakers came calling in 1965, where Jack struck up a partnership with a young Eric Clapton. After a few months Jack was offered a gig in Manfred Mann’s band, with Paul Jones on harp, and he took up the more lucrative offer and featured on a couple of chart singles.

They really were ‘Sittin’ on Top of the World’ when they said “Goodbye”

By the summer of 1966, Jack, Eric and Ginger were considering forming a ‘supergroup’ and at the Windsor Festival in July, Cream made their debut. In just 28 months the band recorded four studio albums, and Jack and his lyricist Pete Brown contributed all the original material, with total sales of 35 million records. The songs were not really the focus of Cream, as each song simply provided the framework for the three virtuoso players to improvise around the theme. Blues-Rock, Metal and psychedelia all have roots in this seminal band as they took Blues standards by Robert Johnson, Skip James and Walter Vinson and blew them eight miles high. Tensions between Jack and Ginger were a big factor in the breakup, which came in November 1968.

‘Rope Ladder to the Moon’ shows Jack in an unfamiliar setting;

jackBruceJack’s first solo album. ‘Songs for a Tailor’ had drummer John Hiseman, guitarist Chris Spedding and a few guests, with Jack playing bass, organ, piano, acoustic guitar and cello. Tony Williams then recruited Jack into his all-star band Lifetime and the band recorded two albums. In 1972, the power trio West, Bruce and Laing, with Leslie and Corky from Mountain, and again two albums resulted. Ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and Carla Bley formed a band with Jack in 1975 but several factors, including Jack’s personal problems, meant it didn’t take off. The ‘fifth Rolling Stone’ Ian Stewart formed Rocket 88 with some players from the 60s London Blues scene, and Jack appears on both albums, but his next major project was BLT with Robin Trower in 1981. Once again two albums resulted and then Jack was drawn to Latin music, collaborating with producer Kip Hanrahan on several projects that would result in Jack using a Cuban rhythm section in some future work.

Jack Bruce Discography
Cream took Blues Rock to the world in the 60s, and their only reunion gig blessed us with 19 of their great numbers. Still dazzling after all these years.

CREAM – ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON. MAY 2005.

After playing the 1990 Montreux Festival with Rory Gallagher, Jack celebrated his 50th birthday with a concert alongside Gary Moore with a resulting live album ‘Cities of the Heart’. This led to a reunion with Ginger Baker, as Gary joined them in BBM and their album made the British Top Ten. After a couple of Latin albums in the new century, liver cancer meant Jack needed a transplant, but he recovered to play the Cream reunion concerts in 2005. Continuing to recover from surgery, he was busy touring and recording with his Big Blues Band, on one occasion with Joe Bonamassa as guest. Jack was the subject of a revealing documentary about his career, and continued his musical explorations until he passed away in October 2014.