Happy Birthday, Mr. John Simon Asher Bruce. Well, let’s stick with Jack Bruce, after all that’s how we fans know the exceptional bass wizard and Cream founding member. I think it’s fair to say that it’s because of him that I actually started to pay attention to bass players in general. Like most young and eager guitarists, when I started out, my focus was typically on the guitar players – but when I got interested in Cream, I began to understand the dynamics of what it actually means of being ‘a band’. And while I’m still awe-struck by Clapton’s early performances, it was Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker who helped me realizing that it takes much more than a good guitarist to create a unique and characteristic sound a band gets to be known for. In other words, I guess it’s fair to say that most of us would have a pretty hard time picturing Cream without Jack Bruce (and Ginger Baker).
Well, I am still not sure what made him such a great musician. Was it talent or him being a good student, even winning a scholarship to study cello at the renowned Scottish Academy of Music. Probably a combination of both. But according to Jack, he quickly realized that strictly focusing on traditional approaches to learn and perform was not what he wanted to do. His tutors, though, didn’t give him the freedom to step outside the regular boundaries, so it’s not surprising that he decided to try his luck going abroad, playing bass in an Italian dance band. From thereon out things developed quickly. Back in England the London Jazz and Blues scene blossomed – Jack got to work with greats such as Cyril Davies, Alexis Corner and Charlie Watts. After that, Graham Bond had him introduced to Ginger Baker and John McLaughlin. In 1965, he joined the John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers where he ultimately met a talented young guitarist who later on was compared to ‘God’ himself by his enthusiastic fellowship of fans: Mr. Eric Clapton.
I’m not good with dates, but if I recall correctly, Cream was debuting in 1966 and quickly put itself on the map as a so called Supergroup. The band employed a novel song writing approach by pretty much just outlining the basic framework of a piece – they’d start out with a theme, moving on to long, sophisticated and complex improvisations to eventually coming back together, concluding the song the same theme again. Their success was massive, but short lived. A little over two years and four studio albums later, the band broke up.
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Jack of course continued his career with solo projects as well as countless collaborations with other high caliber musicians including Mick Taylor, Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa. And, not to be forgotten, the two albums – and several live bootlegs (yes, I’m guilty as charged) with Mountain’s Leslie West and Corky Laing under the name “West, Bruce & Laing”.
Well, once again, Mr. Jack Bruce: Happy Birthday and best wishes from a fan! Oh, that just reminded me: I need to get my hands on the documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” – I’m sure there’s a lot of revealing stuff and from what I heard, Jack has a lot of good stories to share with us.