Though Jack Bruce’s iconic status as a virtuoso instrumentalist emerged from his improvisatory genius with Cream as evidenced on their legendary extended live jams – a revolutionary horizon for rock bands of the era – to my ears Jack’s finest work can be found in his wide array of studio recordings.
With Cream, Bruce possessed the perfect platform to flex his remarkable songwriting chops with lyricist Peter Brown: “White Room,” “Politician,” “SWLABR,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” are all exemplary rock standards. Bruce’s signature tone truly emerged from his soul – regardless of the bass he utilized. From his Fender VI to his notorious Gibson EB to Warwick – you always recognized Jack in one note!
Bruce’s classical education coupled with his passion for jazz enabled him to expand the patois of the bass in a rock context like no other before him. Every album Jack contributed to is worthy of exploration. I loved the manner in which Jack bended and sustained notes in the most appropriate moments within a composition– and the adept ways he utilized space – even though most folks associated Jack as a player renowned for rendering a flurry of notes.
Bruce’s collaborations with artists from every conceivable genre – including Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Frank Zappa, Leslie West, Carla Bley, Mick Taylor, Billy Cobham, Robin Trower, Lou Reed, and Cindy Blackman Santana, to name a very few, never failed to break new ground.
I can’t think of a bass player who traveled more musical roads with style, grace, and expertise than Jack Bruce.