The enigmatic Jack Bruce has died today (Saturday, October 25, 2014) at the age of 71. He succumbed to liver disease at his home in Suffolk, England, and is survived by his second wife, Margrit, his daughters Anuba Red and Kyla Simone as well as his son Malcolm.
Bruce was widely acclaimed as one of the best bass guitarists ever, excelling in jazz,rock, blues and R & B during a career dating back to 1962. At that time, Bruce was a member of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. a bamd that also included Ginger Baker. Bruce and Baker got along poorly to say the least. They fought onstage, sabotaged each other’s equipment and, following a fight during which Baker pulled a knife on Bruce, he left that band.
Bruce bounced from the Graham Bond Organization to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers where he met and worked with Eric Clapton. He again moved on, joining Manfred Mann for shortly over a year. Bruce was stunned to be invited to join Baker and Clapton in an experimental project which they named Cream. The band’s name was a shortened version of “cream of the crop” and was initially intended to be a collaborative effort. All past bad feelings were set aside as they went into the recording studios.
That was in 1966. Things started well and the trio, rock’s first super-group, released two albums in quick succession. Fresh Cream was not a world-beater by any stretch but generated a fair amount of gigs. Disraeli Gears was a much better album and more dates were filled. Much of the attention was focused on Clapton and his guitar artistry but Bruce sang most of the songs, many of which he co-wrote with lyricist Pete Brown. Most of their other material consisted of remakes of blues standards.
Things began to fall apart after Wheels of Fire. Bruce and Baker’s relationship dissolved, leaving Clapton to play the peacekeeper. They got it together to record one last album called Goodbye. All three members acknowledged that the experiment had failed and their last tour was a disaster. According to both Bruce and Baker, they showed up to get paid and to get it over with.
The band reunited for a handful of shows in London and New York in 2005 but old tensions again made things difficult. That was two years removed from Bruce having had a liver transplant in 2003 which had proven nearly fatal when his body at first rejected the new organ.
Following Cream and the reunion, Bruce stayed busy working in a wide variety of bands. He released 19 solo albums, appeared on a multitude of works by friends of his and toured extensively. From 1997-2000, he toured as part of Ringo’s All-Starr Band which included Peter Frampton (Humble Pie), Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company), Mark Rivera and Scott Gordon. Later incarnations included Todd Rundgren (Nazz), Timmy Cappello, Dave Edmunds and Eric Carmen but it was that first incarnation that really rocked.
Many music hard-cores consider Paul McCartney (The Beatles) to be one of the first (and best) inventive, innovative bass guitarists. Jack Bruce probably listened to many Beatles’ records but his manner of playing power bass is all his own. He inspired fellow musicians including Sting (The Police), Geddy Lee (Rush) and jazz great Jeff Berlin (who also cites McCartney as an additional inspiration). Jack Bruce’s bass is silent now and the music world is a poorer place in his absence.