A circle of friends celebrates life and music of the sorely missed stalwart of British blues scene.
Five years after Jack Bruce’s untimely passing, his absence in still notable, but on October 24th, 2015, the day before the first anniversary of the great artist’s death, it was painful, which is why the event that took place at London’s Roundhouse – a Nitin Sawhney-directed homage to his talent – didn’t feel neither grand nor sad. Usually, tributes likes this imply projecting oneself through someone else’s melodies, yet here the participants – many of whom had played with Jack – channel it to an extent where their own personalities are dissolved in Bruce’s tunes, the half-lit stage stressing the understated nature of the evening that benefited his charity of choice: East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. Interspersed with a couple clips of Jack at his most frisky and most are performances reflecting various aspects of Bruce’s creative gamut – the imperfect, if heartfelt, message of love to the missed friend and hero as documented here on 2CDs and a DVD.
The warm reverence drives the hypnotically velvet take on “Don’t Look Now” as Nandi’s vocals elevate the ballad’s tranquil drama and Bernie Marsden‘s fretboard runs help it soar higher. The latter will take the lead on “White Room” – abetted by brass and his bass cohort from WHITESNAKE, Neil Murray – to trade incendiary licks with Clem Clempson, all fueled thanks to Bruce’s son Colin on drums. Jack’s daughters are there too, the heavily pregnant Aruba Red going deep with “Folk Song” where her father used to fly, and Kyla sailing through “Weird Of Hermiston” which is wrapped in a string quartet, while the barefoot Joss Stone brings her own sort of sultry swagger to “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune” and Ayanna Witter-Johnson, left alone with her cello, unveils the stark-naked, yet vulnerably adventurous, “Rope Ladder To The Moon.”
But if these are the opposite points of Jack’s romantic spectrum, the concert’s start is a delicate, albeit vigorous, reading of “Hit And Run” that finds Mark King’s four strings support Stealth’s silky pipes, their call-and-response evoking tension and release so inherent to Bruce’s pieces, and weaving majestic polyphony of “I Feel Free” for Uli John Roth to join in with his celestial licks. Further down the line, the otherworldly, suspenseful “Milonga” sees Ian Anderson‘s fluttery flute – which would later transform “Tickets To Waterfalls” to a song from the wood – and Miles Brett’s violin add color to Paddy Milner’s ivories and voice before Hugh Cornwell takes it back to the Graham Bond era with “Hear Me Calling Your Name” that’s getting a loose urban panache. Yet whereas Phil Manzanera is reprising his smoldering solo on the Rob Cass-sung, elegantly lively “Candlelight” and letting rip on “I’m So Glad,” Liam Bailey and Vernon Reid put the bomp in “Badge” and lead “Politician” to Delta to give the “big black car” a different, bluesy connotation.
Backing singers Chloe Fiducia and Julie Iwheta charm the audience as well: they respectively step forward for a seductive, to match their beauty and highlight the magical blend of their voices, take on “Ships In The Night” – with Clem’s astral notes reach for the skies – and serve up the velvet “How’s Tricks”; the show’s a communal gathering, after all, so having quite a few performers refer to lyrics sheets lying on the floor is forgivable. With Bruce’s arch-nemesis Ginger Baker taking the stool for “We’re Going Wrong” – fleshed out with reeds – and “Sunshine Of Your Love” which features a full guitar orchestra, there’s a feeling of Jack being there and, at the same time, gone to let others celebrate the beauty he created. Those who couldn’t be there – including John McLaughlin, Robin Trower and Ringo Starr – sent in video messages, that are shown during the titles run, while Eric Clapton submitted a poignant acoustic instrumental “For Jack” rounding off this remarkable document, an essential bonus to one great career.