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How I became world’s best bass player
THE greatest bass player in the world. That’s a pretty big description to live up to.
“Hey I’m just one of the guys,” Jack Bruce insists.
He’s far too modest. The word legend is used far too frequently these days, but in Jack Bruce’s case, it would be hugely remiss not to use it.
One third of the first super group, Cream, Jack’s modesty almost certainly comes from his humble working class roots, growing up in Glasgow. There, music was all around the young Jack.
“Both my parents were quite musical,” he says. “They weren’t musicians, but my mother was a singer of Scottish songs and my father was a big fan of jazz, much like my older brother.
“In fact, they had quite a few bust-ups over which was better, modern or trad.”
Jack began playing music ‘as soon as possible’, starting off on the piano, before picking up the cello.
He adds: “I fell in love with the cello, but I only started playing it because I wasn’t big enough to play the double bass. That was the instrument I wanted to play.”
When he finally got his hands on the thing, there was no stopping him.
“I was only 17 when I headed off around Europe,” Jack says. “It was quite an adventure.
“I spent a lot of time in Italy playing with all kinds of different bands. I was supposed to play with Chet Baker once but he got himself arrested. I did play with him years later.”
Eventually Jack found himself in London in the midst of the Sixties music scene, where he played in a number of different bands.
In London, he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc, the Graham Bond Organization, John Mayall and Manfred Mann.
He then went on to form the world’s first super group, Cream, with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker.
He composed most of Cream’s hits, including I Feel Free, Sunshine of Your Love, White Room and many others during the band’s meteoric career.
He says: “It was Ginger’s idea. He wanted to be in a band with Eric and Eric said we’ve got to have Jack. When we started we thought we could be a success musically, but we never imagined how popular we would be.
“You still get it sometimes these days when a band has commercial success and is successful musically. Radiohead spring to mind.”
After the demise of Cream he began pursuing a personal goal of forging his own musical language and playing with many of the finest musicians in the world.
In 1993 Jack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream, and the band had a successful reunion in 2005.
He continues to be prolific musically, recording and playing concerts all over the globe.
In 2009 Jack released the Seven Moons CD and live DVD with guitar legend Robin Trower, as well as the six CD box set entitled Can You Follow?, which traces Jack’s career from the age of 19 up until the present day.
Last year Jack formed his new band, the Big Blues Band and had a sell-out tour of the UK.
Since then, he has been playing major summer festivals all over Europe with his Big Blues Band, as well as having been invited to play in Australia and Brazil with them.
This summer there’s an opportunity to see the legend closer to home when he takes to the stage at Abbey Fest.
Along with his Big Blues Band, Jack will be playing the Sunday with Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and his band. Paul Carrack and his band are also on the bill.
Jack says: “They’re an amazing bunch of musicians and pretty much ready-made when I found them.
“I don’t think they’re really bothered by my past, they’re in the band for the music. Hey, I’m just one of the guys.
“There’s a lot of touring this year, a bit like last year really but I’m really looking forward to playing the Bury St Edmunds festival. When you’re used to playing South America, it’s actually quite exotic.”
Of course it might also have something to do with the fact he lives just down the road on the Essex/Suffolk border.
“I’ve lived around here for years,” he adds. “I’ve moved around a bit but not very far. I just like the area really. Great people and great places.”
Jack Bruce and his Big Blues Band Abbey Fest, Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds. July 22. From 4pm. Early Riser Ticket Prices: Adults £36.50, Child £15 (under-14s), Under-5s Free. 01603 508050