Rest in Peace, Mr. Jack Bruce (1943-2014): Your Music Lives On!

Cream

CREAM

JACK BRUCE (1943-2014)

Artist Biography by Richard Skelly

Songs for a TailorAlthough some may be tempted to call multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer Jack Bruce a rock & roll musician, blues and jazz were what this innovative musician really loved. As a result, those two genres were at the base of most of the recorded output from a career that went back to the beginning of London’s blues scene in 1962. In that year, he joined Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Throughout the following decades and into the 21st century, Bruce remained a supreme innovator, pushing himself into uncharted waters with his jazz and folk-rock compositions.

Bruce‘s most famous songs were, in essence, blues tunes — “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Strange Brew,” “Politician,” “White Room” — and they were ones he penned for Cream, the legendary blues-rock trio he formed with drummer Ginger Baker and guitarist Eric Clapton in July 1966. Baker and Bruceplayed together for five years before Clapton came along, and although their trio only lasted until November 1968, the group is credited with changing the face of rock & roll and bringing blues to a worldwide audience. Through their creative arrangements of classic blues tunes like Robert Johnson‘s “Crossroads,” Skip James‘ “I’m So Glad,” Willie Dixon‘s “Spoonful,” and Albert King‘s “Born Under a Bad Sign,” the group helped popularize blues-rock and led the way for similar groups that came about later on, like Led Zeppelin.

Bruce was born May 14, 1943, in Lanarkshire, near Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a big jazz fan, and so he included people like Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller among his earliest influences. He grew up listening to jazz and took up bass and cello as a teen. After three months at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, he left, disgusted with the politics of music school. After traveling around Europe for a while, he settled into the early blues scene in 1962 in London, where he eventually met drummerGinger Baker. He played with British blues pioneers Alexis Korner and Graham Bond before leaving in 1965 to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, whose guitarist was Eric Clapton. This gave him time to get his chops together without having to practice. With Manfred Mann, who he also played with before forming Cream, Bruce learned about the business of making hit songs.

Shadows in the AirCream‘s reputation for long, extended blues jams began at the Fillmore in San Francisco at a concert organized by impresario Bill Graham. Bruce later realized that Creamgave him a chance to succeed as a musician, and admitted that if it weren’t for that group, he might never have escaped London. After Cream split up in November 1968, Bruceformed Jack Bruce & Friends with drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Larry Coryell. Recording-wise, Bruce took a different tack away from blues and blues-rock, leaning more in a folk-rock direction with his solo albums Songs for a Tailor (1969), Harmony Row (1971), and Out of the Storm(1974).

Live at the MilkywayIn 2010, Bruce joined the Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute Band with Reid, organist John Medeski, and drummer Cindy Blackman, and toured in the late part of that year and in early 2011 to sold-out performances and rave reviews. Also in 2011, Pledge Music, a company that pairs fans and artists to fund projects, released Jack Bruce and the Cuicoland Express Live at the Milky Way, from a 2001 concert in Amsterdam. The high-quality recording was provided by Bruce‘s daughters, who designed the cover as well. The Lifetime Tribute Band’s tour had been so successful that the group renamed itself Spectrum Road and entered the studio. They emerged with a self-titled album that featured covers of Lifetime material and originals. In 2013, Bruce reconvened the rhythm section under his name for the album Silver Rails (with Robin Trower, Phil Manzanera, Uli Jon Roth, and Bernie Marsdenalternating in the guitar chair). It was released in March of 2014. Just seven months later, however, he died at his Suffolk home from liver disease.”






 

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ROBERT JOHNSON: A mythic figure of the Blues (Listen to his Complete Recs and covers by Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Howlin Wolf, Cream, R.L. Burnside, Gil Scott-Heron and others…)

R J

Artist Biography by Cub Koda

If the blues has a truly mythic figure, one whose story hangs over the music the way a Charlie Parker does over jazz or a Hank Williams does over country, it’s Robert Johnson, certainly the most celebrated figure in the history of the blues. Of course, his legend is immensely fortified by the fact that Johnson also left behind a small legacy of recordings that are considered the emotional apex of the music itself. These recordings have not only entered the realm of blues standards (“Love in Vain,” “Crossroads,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Stop Breaking Down”), but were adapted by rock & roll artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton. While there are historical naysayers who would be more comfortable downplaying his skills and achievements (most of whom have never made a convincing case as where the source of his apocalyptic visions emanates from), Robert Johnson remains a potent force to be reckoned with. As a singer, a composer, and as a guitarist of considerable skills, he produced some of the genre’s best music and the ultimate blues legend to deal with. Doomed, haunted, driven by demons, a tormented genius dead at an early age, all of these add up to making him a character of mythology who — if he hadn’t actually existed — would have to be created by some biographer’s overactive romantic imagination.

The legend of his life — which by now, even folks who don’t know anything about the blues can cite to you chapter and verse — goes something like this: Robert Johnson was a young black man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi. Branded with a burning desire to become great blues musician, he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery’s plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar from Johnson, tuned it, and handed it back to him. Within less than a year’s time, in exchange for his everlasting soul,Robert Johnson became the king of the Delta blues singers, able to play, sing, and create the greatest blues anyone had ever heard.

As success came with live performances and phonograph recordings, Johnson remained tormented, constantly haunted by nightmares of hellhounds on his trail, his pain and mental anguish finding release only in the writing and performing of his music. Just as he was to be brought to Carnegie Hall to perform in John Hammond’s first Spirituals to Swing concert, the news had come from Mississippi; Robert Johnson was dead, poisoned by a jealous girlfriend while playing a jook joint. Those who were there swear he was last seen alive foaming at the mouth, crawling around on all fours, hissing and snapping at onlookers like a mad dog. His dying words (either spoken or written on a piece of scrap paper) were, “I pray that my redeemer will come and take me from my grave.” He was buried in a pine box in an unmarked grave, his deal with the Devil at an end. – KEEP ON READIN AT AMG ALL MUSIC GUIDE

Robert Johnson’s blues played by other stunning artists:

 

“Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out)” sung by Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, and Carla Bruni…

Jazz & Blues Classics – 60s and 70s – 1st Edition (exclusive material!)

blues2011

“Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have below.”
JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719)

For all of you who cherish and praise  M U S I C, and deem it one greatest goods that mortals know here below, here it comes: some classic yet obscure albums from the 60s and 70s. They weren’t available at Youtube yet, so I took the trouble to upload them and share them with you – and let’s just hope these precious digital music-boxes don’t get labeled piracy and erased from the public stream.

So, here’s three of the records who’ve been getting a lot of airplay in my mind and ears lately: Alexis Korner, the great british bluesman and talented guitarist, who in the early sixties was inspirational to Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, among others; Oliver Nelson, with his debut album Screaming’ The Blues, released in 1960 and containing some of the most exciting and compelling sax sound ever to be commited to tape; and Lonnie Liston Smith‘s Expansions, a masterpiece of fusion and funk-jazz in the Seventies, in which Lonnie Liston Smith, who had previously played with masters such as Miles Davis, Pharaoh Sanders and Roland Kirk, flies with his own band into the skies – and brings back to earth what Addison tought to be “all of heaven we have below”.

Enjoy the music!