Tales of a survivor
Rob Adams looks at the roller- coaster career of bass giant Jack Bruce
It was 1965. Jack Bruce was making his ﬁrst appearance back in Glasgow. having left for London ﬁve years previously. On stage with the Graham Bond Organisation (not. perhaps. the natural support for Chuck Berry and The Moody Blues). Bruce afﬁrmed his Glaswegian status.
‘I was just so knocked out about playing the Glasgow Empire that I had to say something.‘ he recalls. Alas. his ‘I belong tae Glasgow‘ met with a chorus of. approximately. ‘Get tae Forfar.‘ Which was. he says. ‘probably what I deserved‘.
Should he attempt something similar at The Fruitmarket. Bruce might expect a kinder response. Nowadays. Glasgow is rather proud of this particular son. Among musicians of a certain age. stories abound about Wee Jackie Bruce. the schoolboy bass player. running around bossin organising bands. stories at which Bruce himsell'expresses bafﬂement. ‘I didn't actually spend that much time in Glasgow. I left when l was 17. although I probably was bossy.‘
In London. Bruce quickly became immersed in the nucleus of bands vital to the development of British rock. In rapid succession. his energetic bass lines propelled Alexis Korner‘s Blues Incorporated. the Bond Organisation. John Mayall‘s Bluesbreakers. and Manfred Mann. before Bruce teamed up with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in Cream.
That Clapton. a self-confessed copyist. should have
Jack Bruce: still gigging
gone on to lead the superstar lifestyle whiie Bruce. a totally idiosyncratic and hugely inventive player. simply continued as a gigging musician is one ofthe music business‘s typical ironies. Yet a gigging musician is all Bruce ever saw himself as. and still does.
Post-Cream. his work has ranged from Carla Bley's free jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill through Tony Williams‘s jazz-rock outﬁt Lifetime (with John
McLaughlin). Kip Hanrahan’s pan-American voyages of discovery. trumpeter Michael Mantler‘s eerie settings of Beckett poems (Mantler's latest album. Folly Seeing All This (WATT). also features
. an achingly-wrought Bruce vocal). and back to the
ever-recurring power tn'o format with. among others.
~ West. Bruce and Laing.
‘There have been lean years. lean decades. but I‘ve always worked as much as I could without giving up any ideals or that sort of stuff. Oh. I've played weddings. But I don‘t play studio sessions because the way I play. the energy I put into it. wouldn‘t ﬁt there.‘ Later. he confesses that. actually. he has played sessions. “‘Lin The Pink" by The Scaffold. and the original version of "Sorrow". that‘s me. See.
you‘re not talking about rubbish. you know.’
Bruce's own irregular recorded output has been patchy at times. and at others sublime. If he has never again reached the level of consistency of Harmony
Row (I971). surely one of the most impeccably
arranged rock albums of all time. his would be a dangerous talent to write off. The various Jack Bruce Bands. notably the mid-70s incarnation with former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and Carla Bley. have been prone to trauma and short lives. yet many of his most rewarding musical associations date back twenty years and more.
He has given wonderful voice to Pete Brown‘s unremittingly grim lyrics since the Cream days. and seven of the nine songs on his latest album. Somethin E13. which deserved his best reviews in yonks. were written with the lyricist. The musicians he brings to
Glasgow. drummer Gary Husband and guitarist Blue
Saraseno. are newer acquaintances. but allow yet another return to the trio format. which obviously has a special attraction.
‘I tried to deny it for a long time but when I went back I loved it. lt‘sjust so open. nobody can stop playing; you‘ve always got to be thinking. You’ve got to be dead honest.‘ There is. he adds. a bonus in having Husband along. in that he and Bruce can play keyboards and therefore set up an opening mood. 'and then I destroy it.‘
Jack Bruce is a! the F ruitmarkel on Fri 2 at 10pm.
[— Suite for Scotland
Tommy Smith is the iirst Scottish musician to be Composer-in- llesidence at the festival, and he follows Benny Carter, Gerry Mulligan, John Surman (who returns in a playing capacity this year), George Russell and Carla Bley. Last year’s fulsome contribution from Bley was the best yet, and will have raised considerable expectations for Smith’s contribution. (in recent evidence, he seems ideally placed to fulfil them. Last year, he
wrote lull sets of strong, originally- conceived new material for both jazz sextet and quartet, as well as a
classical-tinged piece which he and pianist Chick lyall premiered in Edinburgh. The Glasgow commission has set him a fresh set oi challenges, but having survived an alternately ardous and inspiring month-long tour of Pakistan and Eastern Europe in the spring, he is at work completing what he acknowledges is ‘a hell of a lot of
His festival contribution begins with the commissioned work, a Suite for Jazz Orchestra which takes its title from Edwin Muir’s poem ‘Scotland’s Winter’, which he plays with the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra at The Fruitmarket (Sun 4). It is followed by a second concert there, this time with a string orchestra formed for the occasion, in which he will also play
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: BRECKER BROS O ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO O JACKIE MCLEAN
duets with pianists John Taylor and Murray McLachlan (Mon 5).
Finally, Tommy recently broke up his band and re-fonned the old Berklee outfit Forward Motion, with bassist Terie Sewelt and drummer Ian Froman. Additional sidemen will be added as needed, but the band play three gigs as a trio, one as part of the exciting Clandemonium! proiect and another at the M. U. Club at the 13th llote (both Sat 10), and at The Fruitmarket in the closing concert (Sun 11). Taken together, it is an unparalleled opportunity to sample the many facets of an exceptional talent. (Joe Alexander)
Tommy Smith plays in five concerts during the Festival. See Listings for details.
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