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Jack Bruce

Band: Cream

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Jack Bruce, died aged seventy-one from liver disease on 25th October 2014, in Suffolk, U.K. . He was survived by his wife, Margrit, as well as four children; photo of Jack BruceMalcolm Bruce, Aruba Red, Kyla Simone Bruce, Corin Bruce and granddaughter Maya Sage. His funeral was held in London on 5th November 2014 and was attended by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and noted musicians Phil Manzanera, Gary Brooker, Vernon Reid and Nitin Sawhney among others. Dozens assembled at the Golders Green Crematorium paying a last tribute singing "Morning Has Broken", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Theme for an Imaginary Western". Jack Bruce's remains were later cremated and then buried at a private family ceremony on 31st December 2014 at the crematorium.
In 1964 Jack had married Janet Godfrey, who had been the secretary of the Graham Bond Organisation fan club and had collaborated with him on two songs written for the group. Together, they had two sons, Jonas (Jo) Bruce, who grew up to play keyboards in his father's band and formed a band called Afro Celt Sound System, and Malcolm Bruce, who grew up to play the guitar with his father and played with Ginger Baker's son, Kofi. In 1982 Jack married his second wife, Margrit Seyffer. With her he had two daughters, Natascha, known professionally as Aruba Red and Kyla, and a son Corin.
Jack Bruce, birth name John Symon Asher Bruce, was born on 14th May 1943 in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire, Scotland to Betty and Charlie Bruce, musical parents who moved frequently, resulting in the young Jack Bruce attending fourteen different schools, ending up at Bellahouston Academy. Jack began playing the jazz bass in his teens and won a scholarship to study cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama while playing in Jim McHarg's Scotsville Jazzband to support himself. The academy disapproved of its students playing jazz. When they found out", they told him you either stop, or you leave college and Jack left college.
After leaving school he toured Italy, playing double bass with the Murray Campbell Big Band. In 1962 Jack Bruce became a member of the London-based band Blues Incorporated, led by Alexis Korner, in which he played the upright bass. The band also included organist Graham Bond, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and drummer Ginger Baker. In 1963 the group broke up and Jack Bruce went on to form the Graham Bond Quartet with Bond, Baker and guitarist John McLaughlin. They played an eclectic range of music genres, including bebop, blues and rhythm and blues. As a result of session work at this time, Jack Bruce switched from the upright bass to the electric bass guitar. The move to electric bass happened as McLaughlin was dropped from the band; he was replaced by Heckstall-Smith on saxophone and the band pursued a more concise R&B sound and changed their name to the Graham Bond Organisation. The group released two studio albums and several singles but were not commercially successful.
During the time that Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker played with the Graham Bond Organisation, they were known for their hostility towards each other. There were numerous stories of the two sabotaging each other's equipment and fighting on stage. Relations grew so bad between the two that Jack Bruce left the group in August 1965. After leaving, Jack Bruce recorded a solo single, "I'm Gettin Tired", for Polydor Records. He joined John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers group, which featured guitarist Eric Clapton. His stay was brief and he did not appear on any releases at the time, although recordings featuring him were released later, initially on Looking Back and Primal Solos.
After the Bluesbreakers, Jack Bruce had his first commercial success as a member of Manfred Mann in 1966, including 'Pretty Flamingo' which reached number one in the UK singles chart (one of two number one records of his career - the other being an uncredited bass part on The Scaffold's "Lily the Pink") as well as the free-wheeling and ground-breaking jazz-rock of Instrumental Asylum. When interviewed on the edition of the VH1 show Classic Albums which featured Disraeli Gears, Mayall said that Jack Bruce had been lured away by the lucrative commercial success of Manfred Mann, while Mann himself recalled that Jack Bruce attended recording sessions without having rehearsed but played songs straight through without error, commenting that perhaps the chord changes seemed obvious to Bruce.
While with Manfred Mann, Jack Bruce again collaborated with Eric Clapton as a member of Powerhouse, which also featured Spencer Davis Group vocalist Steve Winwood credited as "Steve Anglo". Three tracks were featured on the Elektra sampler album 'What's Shakin'. Two of the songs, "Crossroads" and "Steppin' Out", became staples in the live set of his next band, 'Cream'.
In July 1966 Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker founded the power trio Cream, which gained international recognition playing blues-rock and jazz-inflected rock music. Jack Bruce sang most of the lead vocals, with Clapton backing him up and eventually assuming some leads himself.
With his Gibson EB-3 electric bass, Jack Bruce became one of the most famous bassists in rock, winning musicians' polls and influencing the next generation of bassists such as Sting, Geddy Lee and Jeff Berlin. Jack Bruce co-wrote most of Cream's single releases with lyricist Pete Brown, including the hits "Sunshine of Your Love", "White Room" and "I Feel Free". Cream broke up in 1968.
Collaborative efforts with musicians, in many genres – hard rock, jazz, blues, R&B, fusion, avant-garde, world music, third stream classical – continued as a theme of Jack Bruce's career. Alongside these he produced a long line of highly regarded solo albums. In contrast to his collaborative works, the solo albums usually maintain a common theme: melodic songs with a complex musical structure, songs with lyrics frequently penned by Pete Brown and a core band of world-class musicians. This structure was loosened on his live solo albums and DVDs, where extended improvisations similar to those employed by Cream in live performance were sometimes still used.
In August 1968, before Cream officially disbanded, Jack Bruce recorded an acoustic free jazz album with John McLaughlin, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman. This was issued in 1970 as Jack Bruce's second solo album, 'Things We Like'. The album was a precursor to the jazz fusion boom in the early 1970s, and more recently has been sampled by many hip hop artists, such as Artifacts and Smif-N-Wessun.
Jack Bruce's first solo release, Songs for a Tailor, was issued in September 1969; it too featured Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman. It was a worldwide hit, but after a brief supporting tour backed by Larry Coryell and Mitch Mitchell, Jack Bruce joined the jazz fusion group Lifetime. With drummer Tony Williams, guitarist McLaughlin, and organist Larry Young, the group recorded two albums. Jack Bruce joined on the second album, Turn It Over. However, Lifetime did not receive much critical or commercial acclaim at the time, and the band broke up in 1971. Jack Bruce then recorded his third solo album 'Harmony Row', but this was not as commercially successful as 'Songs for a Tailor'. The song "The Consul at Sunset" from Harmony Row, which was inspired by the Malcolm Lowry novel Under the Volcano, was released as a single in 1971.
In 1972 Jack Bruce formed a blues rock power trio, West, Bruce & Laing. Besides Jack Bruce, the group included singer/guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, both formerly of the Cream-influenced American band Mountain. West, Bruce & Laing produced two studio albums, Why Dontcha and Whatever Turns You On, and one live album, Live 'n' Kickin'.
The band's break-up was announced shortly before Live 'n' Kickin's release in early 1974, and Jack Bruce released his fourth solo album 'Out of the Storm' later that year. Also in 1974 he featured on the title track of Frank Zappa's album Apostrophe, recorded in November 1972. Jack Bruce was credited with bass and co-authorship on the improvised track. When asked about Zappa in a 1992 interview, Jack Bruce tried to change the subject and jokingly insisted that he had played only cello parts. Outtakes from the session were released on the archival release The Crux Of The Biscuit in 2016. In 1973 Jack Bruce recorded bass guitar for Lou Reed's Berlin album, playing on all but two tracks.
A 1975 tour was lined up to support the Out of the Storm album with a band featuring former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and jazz keyboard player Carla Bley, with whom he had collaborated in 1971 on Escalator over the Hill. The tour was belatedly documented on Live at Manchester Free Trade Hall '75 (2003), but it ended with Taylor's departure, and sessions for a studio album were abandoned. During the next year, Jack Bruce only resurfaced to play on Charlie Mariano's Helen 12 Trees album.
In 1976 Jack Bruce formed a new band with drummer Simon Phillips and keyboardist Tony Hymas. The group recorded an album, called How's Tricks. A world tour followed, but the album was a commercial failure. The follow-up album, Jet Set Jewel, was rejected at the time by Jack Bruce's record label RSO as not being marketable, and RSO ultimately dropped Jack Bruce from their roster. In 1979 he toured with members from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, reuniting him with John McLaughlin, and introducing him to drummer Billy Cobham. A 3-CD collection of his 1970s BBC recordings, entitled Spirit, was released in 2008.
By 1979, Jack Bruce's drug habit had reached such a level that he had lost most of his money. Jack Bruce contributed as a session musician to recordings by Cozy Powell, Gary Moore and Jon Anderson to raise money. By 1980 his career was back on track with his new band, Jack Bruce & Friends, consisting of drummer Billy Cobham, guitarist Clem Clempson and keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious. After releasing an album, I've Always Wanted to Do This, at the end of 1980, they undertook a long tour to support the record, but it was not a commercial success and they disbanded. In the early 1980s, he also joined up to play with friends from his Alexis Korner days in Rocket 88, the back-to-the-roots band that Ian Stewart had arranged, and Jack Bruce appears on the album of the same name, recorded live in Germany in 1980. They also recorded a "live in the studio" album called Blues & Boogie Explosion for the German audiophile record label Jeton. That year he also collaborated on the Soft Machine album Land of Cockayne (1981).
In 1981, Jack Bruce collaborated with guitarist Robin Trower and released two power trio albums, B.L.T. and Truce, the first of which was a minor hit in the US. By 1983, Jack Bruce was no longer contracted to a major record company and released his next solo album, Automatic, on a minor German label, Intercord. A European tour followed to promote the album enlisting Bruce Gary from The Knack (who had also played in Jack Bruce's 1975 band) on drums and Sancious from his 1980 band (Jack Bruce & Friends) on guitar and keyboards. In 1982, Jack Bruce played with a short-lived ensemble A Gathering of Minds, composed of Billy Cobham, Allan Holdsworth, Didier Lockwood and David Sancious at Montreux. In 1983, Jack Bruce sang on tracks 5 and 6 of the Allan Holdsworth album Road Games.
In 1983 Jack Bruce began working with the Latin/world music producer Kip Hanrahan, and released the collaborative albums Desire Develops an Edge, Vertical's Currency, A Few Short Notes from the End Run, Exotica and All Roads Are Made of the Flesh. They were all critically successful, and in 2001 he went on to form his own band using Hanrahan's famous Cuban rhythm section. Other than his partnership with lyricist Pete Brown, Jack Bruce's musical relationship with Hanrahan was the most consistent and long-lasting of his career.
In 1985 he sang lead and played blues harp on the song "Silver Bullet" with Anton Fier's Golden Palominos. It appears on the album Visions of Excess. In 1986 he re-recorded the Cream song "I Feel Free" and released it as a single to support an advertising campaign for the Renault 21 motor car.
In 1989 Jack Bruce secured his first major record deal in a decade, with Epic, and recorded A Question of Time. This included two tracks with Ginger Baker on drums, their first collaboration since Cream. Baker then joined Jack Bruce's live band and toured the United States at the turn of the decade.
Jack Bruce played at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990, and was invited by Irish blues rock performer, Rory Gallagher (who had a long-standing relationship with him, having supported Cream's farewell concert in the band Taste in 1968) to perform a couple of songs together on stage. In 1991 he was one of the supporting musicians for Vivian Stanshall's solo show "Rawlinson Dog-ends", but quit over a lack of adequate rehearsals. In 1993, a solo album, Somethin Else, reunited him with Eric Clapton and brought belated, but widespread, critical acclaim.
Later that year, Ginger Baker and a host of former Jack Bruce band colleagues joined him for two special 50th birthdays concerts in Cologne, Germany, hosted by the TV show Rockpalast. Selections from these were released as the live double CD Cities of the Heart, and much later as the DVD set Rockpalast: The 50th Birthdays Concerts. One special guest was the Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore, who joined Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for a set of Cream classics. Inspired by this performance, the three formed the power trio BBM and their subsequent album, Around the Next Dream, was a top ten hit in the UK. However, the old Bruce/Baker arguments arose again and the subsequent tour was cut short and the band broke up. A low-key solo album, Monkjack, followed in 1995, featuring Jack Bruce on piano and vocals, accompanied only by Funkadelic organist Bernie Worrell.
Jack Bruce then began work producing and arranging the soundtrack to the independently produced Scottish film The Slab Boys, with; Lulu, Edwyn Collins, Eddi Reader and the Proclaimers. The soundtrack album appeared in 1997. In 1997 he returned to touring as a member of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, which also featured Peter Frampton on guitar. At the gig in Denver, Colorado the band was joined onstage by Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce, Baker and Frampton played a short set of Cream classics. Jack Bruce continued to tour with Starr through 2000.
In 2001 Jack Bruce reappeared with a band featuring Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid of Living Colour on guitar and Kip Hanrahan's three-piece Latin rhythm section. Hanrahan also produced the accompanying album Shadows in the Air, which included a reunion with Eric Clapton on a new version of "Sunshine of Your Love". The band released another Hanrahan produced studio album, More Jack than God, in 2003, and a live DVD, Live at the Canterbury Fayre.
Jack Bruce had suffered a period of declining health, after many years of addictions which he finally beat with clinical treatment, and in 2003 was diagnosed with liver cancer. In September 2003, he underwent a liver transplant, which was almost fatal, as his body initially rejected the new organ. He recovered, and in 2004 re-appeared to perform "Sunshine of Your Love" at a Rock Legends concert in Germany organised by the singer Mandoki.
In May 2005, he reunited with former Cream bandmates Clapton and Baker for a series of well-received concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, released as the album Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005, and New York's Madison Square Garden.
In between the UK and US Cream dates, he also played live with Gary Moore and drummer Gary Husband at the Dick Heckstall-Smith tribute concert in London.
Subsequent concert appearances by Jack Bruce were sparse because of recovery after the transplant, but in 2006 he returned to the live arena with a show of Cream and solo classics performed with the German HR (Hessischer Rundfunk) Big Band. This was released on CD in Germany in 2007. In 2007, he made a brief concert appearance, opening a new rehearsal hall named in his honour at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow with Clem Clempson, keyboard player Ronnie Leahy and Husband.
In 2008, Jack Bruce collaborated again with guitarist Robin Trower on the album Seven Moons. It also featured Husband.
In May 2008 Jack Bruce was 65 years old and to commemorate this milestone two box sets of recordings were released. Spirit is a three-CD collection of Jack Bruce's BBC recordings from the 1970s. Can You Follow? is a six-CD retrospective anthology released by the Esoteric label in the UK. This anthology is a wide ranging collection covering his music from 1963 to 2003 and, aside from his work with Kip Hanrahan, is a comprehensive overview of his career.
Improved health led to Jack Bruce playing a series of live outdoor concerts across the USA starting in July 2008 as part of the Hippiefest Tour. He was supported by members of the late Who bassist John Entwistle's The John Entwistle Band, and headlined at a tribute concert to the bassist.
In November 2008 he recorded a concert in Birmingham, England for Radio Broadcast with the BBC Big Band, where he again played the Big Band arrangements of his classic songs. In December he was reunited with Ginger Baker at the drummer's Lifetime Achievement Award concert in London. They played jazz classics with saxophonist Courtney Pine and for the first time in 40 years played the Graham Bond–Cream classic "Traintime".
The same month, Jack Bruce, with guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman and organist John Medeski played a series of Blue Note Club tribute concerts to The Tony Williams Lifetime in Japan. These shows were broadcast in high definition on television in Japan.
In 2009 Jack Bruce performed in a series of concerts with Trower and Husband in Europe. Proposed dates in the USA in April were cancelled because of a further bout of ill health. Jack Bruce recovered and the band played summer concerts in Italy, Norway and the UK during 2009. This promoted the release of the Seven Moons live CD and DVD, recorded in February during the European leg of the tour in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
During the Scottish dates of the 2009 tour Jack Bruce was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Glasgow Caledonian University for services to the culture of Glasgow and music in general.
In August 2009, the 1983 JackBruce solo album 'Automatic' was re-released, making his entire solo catalogue available on CD. In addition, all of the discs up to and including How's Tricks contain previously unreleased material.
In October 2009, Jack Bruce performed at the 50th anniversary of Ronnie Scott's Club with the Ronnie Scott's Blues Band.
Composing Himself: Jack Bruce The Authorised Biography by Harry Shapiro was released by Jawbone Press in February 2010. Shapiro had previously written biographies of Jack Bruce collaborators Alexis Korner, Graham Bond and Eric Clapton. The book followed biographies from his Cream bandmates Clapton (Clapton, 2007) and Baker (Hellraiser, 2009). His songwriting partner, Pete Brown's, biography White Rooms & Imaginary Westerns was published in September 2010.
On 14 January, at the 2011 North American Music Merchants Show, Jack Bruce became only the third recipient of the International Bassist Award, a lifetime achievement award for bassists, after Jaco Pastorius and Nathan Watts.
His first independent CD release, Live at the Milky Way, Amsterdam 2001, featuring The Cuicoland Express, his Latin-based band of the time, was issued in October 2010. The double album received an official worldwide release, distributed by EMI in February 2011. To support this release Jack Bruce again played four dates in London at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club with the Ronnie Scott's Blues Experience, followed by a further ten dates across the UK with the band. On 4 June 2011, Jack Bruce played a special concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London, which was celebrating its 60th anniversary. The evening celebrated the 50th anniversary of the blues in Great Britain, and Jack Bruce played with his Big Blues Band and special guest Joe Bonamassa.
Jack Bruce started 2012 playing the Gerry Rafferty tribute concert in Glasgow, followed by a date with the traditional Celtic band Lau. BBC Scotland recorded a one-hour special on Jack Bruce, which also included a performance with Lau. The completed documentary Jack Bruce – The Man behind the Bass was transmitted in February 2012 by BBC Scotland. It featured new interviews with Jack Bruce, Clapton, Baker and Brown.
February 2012 saw Jack Bruce playing in Havana, Cuba, along with guitarist Phil Manzanera, supporting the mambo band of Augusto Enriquez. March saw another residency at Ronnie Scott's in London supported by his Big Blues Band, followed by a UK tour. The concert at the Stables, Milton Keynes on 18 March was due to be recorded as an Instant Live CD release, but technical issues prevented this. The following evenings' performance at the same location was recorded and a 2CD version issued by Instant Live.
'Spectrum Road', a collaboration with Vernon Reid, Cindy Blackman and John Medeski in tribute to The Tony Williams Lifetime, was released in June 2012 by the US jazz record label Palmetto Records and was accompanied by a series of dates at large jazz festivals in North America and Europe throughout Jimage of JAck Bruceune and July.
In March 2014, Jack Bruce released 'Silver Rails' on the Esoteric Antenna label, his first solo studio album in over a decade. Silver Rails was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, produced and mixed by Rob Cass and features contributions from Cream lyricist, Pete Brown, Kip Hanrahan and wife Margrit Seyffer as well as musicians Robin Trower, Cindy Blackman, Phil Manzanera, Uli Jon Roth, John Medeski and Bernie Marsden. The deluxe version of the album featured a behind the scenes documentary "The Making of Silver Rails" which was filmed on location at the studios and directed by Jack Bruce's daughter Kyla Simone Bruce. Jack Bruce's son Malcolm Bruce pre-produced the album and played guitar on several tracks, while his daughter Aruba Red was featured on "Hidden Cities" singing backing vocals.

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song: 'Rope Ladder to the Moon' Written and performed by Jack Bruce.