JACK BRUCE (1943-2014)
Artist Biography by Richard Skelly
Although 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.
Cream‘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).
“Cécile McLorin Salvant reminds jazz lovers of the great vocalists of yore even as she puts forth an insouciant individuality. Born in Miami to a Haitian father and French mother, the polyglot charmer won the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition and can count Wynton Marsalis among her fans.
Her technique is crystaline, her phrasing sensual, her repertoire deep. Moreover, she’s at ease with breaking the rules. On her swinging, self-released debut and 2013’s more textured WomanChild, the vocalist echoes prewar stars Bessie Smith, Valaida Snow and Ethel Waters and ventures into songs by Erik Satie, John Lennon and tunes of her own devising. Making the old sound new and the offbeat feel inevitable, she’s a jazz songbird for the 21st century.”
Downbeat Magazine (The 80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today, July 2014)
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Cécile’s self-title debut (full album):
Cécile’s 2nd album, WomanChild (2013):
Billie Holiday & Lester Young (1937-1941)
Stream or Download individual tracks @ Internet Archive
The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. More than a half-century after her death, it’s difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday’s highly stylized reading of this blues tradition revolutionized traditional pop, ripping the decades-long tradition of song plugging in two by refusing to compromise her artistry for either the song or the band. She made clear her debts to Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong (in her autobiography she admitted, “I always wanted Bessie’s big sound and Pops‘ feeling”), but in truth her style was virtually her own, quite a shock in an age of interchangeable crooners and band singers.
With her spirit shining through on every recording, Holiday’s technical expertise also excelled in comparison to the great majority of her contemporaries. Often bored by the tired old Tin Pan Alley songs she was forced to record early in her career, Holiday fooled around with the beat and the melody, phrasing behind the beat and often rejuvenating the standard melody with harmonies borrowed from her favorite horn players, Armstrong and Lester Young. (She often said she tried to sing like a horn.) Her notorious private life — a series of abusive relationships, substance addictions, and periods of depression — undoubtedly assisted her legendary status, but Holiday’s best performances (“Lover Man,” “Don’t Explain,” “Strange Fruit,” her own composition “God Bless the Child”) remain among the most sensitive and accomplished vocal performances ever recorded. More than technical ability, more than purity of voice, what madeBillie Holiday one of the best vocalists of the century – easily the equal of Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra – was her relentlessly individualist temperament, a quality that colored every one of her endlessly nuanced performances.
“This Year’s Kisses” (1937)
“Laughing at Life” (1940)
“Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” (1941)
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