Jack Bruce’s unparalleled strides in playing bass and rock music

Before there was Geddy Lee, Flea and Les Claypool, there was Jack Bruce. Similar to what James Jamerson did for funk and soul, Bruce did for rock and all of its ramifications. A jazz bassist at heart, who also had a critical understanding of classical, as well as pioneers such as Jamerson, he helped take bass playing to the next level and bring it into the modern era.

What’s interesting about Bruce is that he started playing double bass, and this understanding of jazz and classical is what, ironically, helped him become a rock ‘n’ icon. roll. As they say, to become a great bass player, you need to have a deep knowledge of jazz.

After leaving school, Bruce toured Italy, playing double bass with the Murray Campbell Big Band. Then, in 1962, he became a member of the iconic London troupe Blues Incorporated. Directed by Alexis Korner, it is there that he will meet for the first time his eternal brother, Ginger Baker.

In 1963, the group broke up and then joined the Graham Bond Quartet, which would soon become the Graham Bond Organization. They played a wide variety of styles including bebop, blues and R&B, and it was around this time that Bruce embraced electric bass. Even at this early stage of his career, the hostility between Bruce and Baker was unbearable to those around them.

He then made a stint in London’s other iconic group of merry men, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1965, and the lineup included a young Eric Clapton on guitar, who would soon invite him to form Cream the following year. . After this stint in the Bluesbreakers, Bruce went on to have a brief tenure as bassist for Manfred Mann, and had his first commercial success with the band on the single ‘Pretty Flamingo’.

To get an idea of ​​how brilliant bassist Bruce was, a story from his departure from the Bluesbreakers clearly demonstrates this.
Although John Mayall claimed that Bruce was drawn away from his group purely by the lure of money, it didn’t matter to Manfred Mann as they were keenly aware of Bruce’s abilities.

The band’s namesake and keyboardist recalled that Bruce played his first gig with the band without any rehearsals and played every song flawlessly. Mann even claimed that perhaps the chord changes seemed obvious to Bruce due to his perceptual understanding of music.

Then, in 1966, Cream was formed. It was Baker who asked Clapton to join his new unnamed group. Clapton agreed to the condition that he hire Baker as a bassist being a fan of his playing since their brief stint with the Bluesbreakers. According to Clapton, Baker was so taken aback by the suggestion to engage his nemesis that he almost crashed the car they were traveling in.

Either way, the couple agreed to put their past feuds behind them and form Cream for the sake of the trio’s artistic endeavors. The group would quickly become one of the most iconic bands of all time, a psychedelic power trio, rightly hailed as the world’s premier supergroup. Songs such as “I Feel Free”, “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love” captured the hedonistic spirit of the counterculture and contributed to the soundtrack of the memorable decade of the ’60s.

After Cream’s implosion in 1968, Bruce pursued a prolific career. He has collaborated with many musicians from disparate genres such as avant-garde, world music, classical third stream and hard rock and has performed with icons such as Rory Gallagher and as a sole member of the All- Ringo Starr’s Starr Band.

A true master of the bass, the number of icons who have recognized his work and cited him as a source of inspiration is staggering. Black Sabbath and the god of heavy metal Geezer Butler definitely considered him “his greatest influence and favorite bassist”.

Although Bruce passed away in 2014, Rush bass virtuoso Geddy Lee gave him a lot of praise on the band’s website in 2015. In the blog entry he said, “(He was) one of the greatest rock bassists to ever live and a true, deep inspiration to countless musicians. He was one of my first bass heroes and had a major influence on my playing and music.

To top it off, former Pink Floyd concept mastermind and bassist Roger Waters lamented following Bruce’s death that he was “possibly the most musically gifted bass player ever.”

Jack Bruce’s status within rock music is unmatched and without his incredible milestones in bass playing and songwriting many of modern bass’s most important role models and bassists would not exist. Let the importance of his contributions permeate.

Listen to Jack Bruce talk about his time on Cream below.


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