By now, you may have heard: Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce is with us no more.
Here’s a few reasons why he mattered:
1. He helped define the bass guitar in rock. Perhaps no one other than John Entwistle put the bass on the map as a serious rock instrument, one that could be a vehicle for virtuosity and could expand the sonic complexity of a song. He played guitar and piano, but bass was where he made his mark. And Cream would never have been Cream without Bruce’s inspired bass runs and improvisational flights of fancy. Take “Spoonful,” from 1968:
2. He followed his muse. Bruce, along with Ginger Baker, was fundamentally a jazz player. He started out in trad jazz big bands, later landing with Baker and jazz guitar great John McLaughlin in the Graham Bond Organisation. And while he frequently returned to blues-rock, notably with Gary Moore and Robin Trower, he wasn’t shy about pursuing less commercial projects, such as the Spectrum Road project in 2012 with Vernon Reid, Cindy Blackmon-Santana and John Medeski. He also played on Lou Reed’s Berlin and Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe.
3. That voice. No, he wasn’t possessed of a great range. But his voice — and he sang most of Cream’s catalog, carried immense power and passion. Here’s “We’re Going Wrong” from Cream’s Royal Albert Hall reunion shows in 2005:
4. “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “I Feel Free.” Yes, those were all Bruce compositions.
Jack Bruce, RIP.