Sunday, October 26, 2014

Goodbye to Jack Bruce

I didn't fall in love with music until I was in my mid-teens. Before then, piano lessons at age eleven just didn't capture my attention. What I thought I wanted was to play the drums, but my mother found out that it cost a lot more to rent a set of drums than it did to rent an electric bass. So, electric bass it was! My mother, a fiddler herself, explained to me that they were both in the rhythm section. Whatever that meant! So, in that inauspicious fashion, began my short career as a bassist. Throughout the three or four years I played bass in a band, my model was the bassist, Jack Bruce, for the world's first supergroup power trio, Cream. Sadly, we learn today that Jack Bruce has passed away, age seventy-one.

Here he is in the days when Cream were together from 1966 to 68:

And here he is during their revival concerts in London in 2005:

He started out on cello, which may be why his approach to the electric bass was both so melodic and so virtuosic. In any case, it certainly shaped the way I approached the bass. One consequence for me was after a few years I switched, first to six-string guitar, both acoustic and electric, and then to classical guitar as I discovered classical music. I'm sure that Jack Bruce was a big influence all through those early years, not just as an instrumentalist and singer, but also as a composer. Here is "As You Said", one of the songs Jack wrote for Cream's double album Wheels of Fire:

Apart from having written the music and the lyrics (in collaboration with Pete Brown), Jack sings the song and is playing both the cello and acoustic guitar (I believe). That is one of the most unusual songs he wrote. A more popular one he wrote (again with lyric contribution from Pete Brown) is "White Room", famous for its introduction in 5/4:

He was also a hell of a harmonica player as we can hear in this cover of the Muddy Waters tune, "Rollin' and Tumblin'":

Now that's a groove! That clip was from their series of revival concerts in Royal Albert Hall in 2005. Perhaps the most poignant performance from those concerts was another Jack Bruce song "We're Going Wrong" about his own personal life. One of my favorite songs from that era, not least for the very creative drumming of Ginger Baker:

Jack said in an interview once that he and Ginger always thought they were playing jazz--they just didn't tell Eric!

So long, Jack. You were a famous musician from a time before everything became about the bottom line.


Anonymous said...

Loved Cream! Sad. RIP, Jack!

Bryan Townsend said...

He left us some wonderful music to listen to, which is a kind of immortality.