Jack Bruce, bassist, vocalist and songwriter extraordinaire passed away on October 25, 2014 at the age of 71 from liver disease. With Cream, he was one of the handful of musicians who redefined the capabilities of his instrument and along with his fellow band mates, helped establish the concept of the virtuoso Rock musician. These guys were serious players and were not shy about letting everyone know it (they called themselves Cream for a reason). With a jazz musician’s sensibilities and a bluesman’s soul, Jack Bruce’s playing in Cream was rhythmically driving and fearless. He would go head to toe with two of the most aggressively virtuoso players in rock and give no ground. And let us not forget that he wrote the bass line of Sunshine Of Your Love, one of the Greatest Riffs of All Time.
I was lucky enough to see one of the Cream reunion shows at Madison Square Garden, N.Y.C. in 2005. At the risk of pissing off Clapton fans (of which I am one too), I have to say that Bruce made the show. His bass playing had only become deeper over time and his singing was absolutely incredible. Just remembering now his playing on “We’re Going Wrong” gives me goosebumps.
Below is a fascinating video of Jack Bruce called The Cream of Cream. It alternates segments of Bruce performing several Cream classics “live in the studio” with the late great Gary Moore on guitar and Gary Husband on drums, with sections of Bruce discussing his bass playing and demonstrating his bass parts on these Cream tunes. The tunes performed are White Room, I Feel Free, N.S.U., Sleepy Time Time, Politician and Sunshine of Your Love. The trio playing is absolutely fantastic with Moore and Husband doing great jobs of channeling Clapton and Baker respectively. The parts that really make it for me though are the ones where it’s just Bruce playing the bass. The thing that struck me was how complete the bass parts sound when performed stand alone. Also, at the 9:27 mark, there’s a cool little story on the origins of the song title N.S.U.
Jack Bruce – The Cream of Cream
While Bruce will be rightly be remembered as an innovative bassist, he also wrote (along with lyricist Pete Brown) many of classic Cream songs. These songs have become part of the cannon of rock music. We’re talking White Room, I Feel Free, I’m So Glad and of course, Sunshine Of Your Love. Below is a clip of a personal favorite Jack Bruce song and that’s Theme For An Imaginary Western. The song originally appeared on the Jack Bruce solo album Songs For A Tailor and was subsequently “covered” by the band Mountain, the connection being Felix Papppalardi, bassist/vocalist for Mountain and producer of Cream. This is a beautiful version of the song, performed by Jack Bruce on piano.
Jack Bruce – Theme For An Imaginary Western
R.I.P. Jack. Thanks for the great music.