An Evening For Jack Bruce

The Shepherd's Bush Empire / Shepherd's Bush, London

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Photos by Arnie Goodman

“We both loved Monk,” said Pete Brown, in a rare moment of quiet at the beginning of the soundcheck. “One of the things we learned from Monk was that if you’re creating a piece of music, not to repeat the same phrase. Very, very, hard to sing but very interesting to do.” It’ll be the last time there will be elbow room. An hour into the soundcheck brings “heavy traffic on the South Circular.” Terry Reid, one of the few present to enjoy the dressing room beers, is talking to Chris Spedding. Bob Harris, who will be one of the announcers, is talking to Trevor Horn, who has stopped by play bass on “Without A Word.” Session musicians walk in and out and Blues Matters is arguing with Bernie Marsden, sporting a Sun Records T shirt, over Mississippi blues versus New Orleans R&B.

Jack Bruce’s Scottish roots are acknowledged by Eddie Reader, who sang Robert Burns’ “Red Red Rose.” “His mother sang him Burns songs when he was a boy,” Malcom Bruce tells Blues Matters two days later, over coffee in North London. “And he did the same to me. I wanted to acknowledge the Scottish side of his life.”   fellow Scot LuLu who dedicated “Neighbor Neighbor” to “the Scottish Mafia” echoed the sentiment.

Steve Hackett, who spent much of his backstage time being rather quiet – shuffled onto the stage behind singer Nathan James and shredded “Spoonfull.” In a room full of guitar players provided one of the evenings highlights,

Even one of the stage helpers was from back in the day, Jimi Hendrix’s roadie and The Who’s sound man in the ’60s, Neville Chesters helped keep things moving with some deft stage management. Tributes tend to run longer than expected and given The Shepard’s Bush Empire’s strict 11PM blackout, intermission was scrapped and songs cut, including “I Feel Free” (“our attempt at writing a pop song,” according to Pete Brown). Though Eric Clapton cancelled his appearance two weeks before the show due to ill health, there are murmurs of anticipation as rock scribe Chris Welch walks onto an empty stage to the sound of an audience holding its breath and introduces a very frail Ginger Baker, on the mend after heart surgery. After reminiscing about the first time he met “this scruffy old bugger” at a Cambridge University ball, Baker managed a couple of minutes of dual drums accompanied with friend and minder Abass Dodoo. After being led off the stage to thunderous applause, more of the bases in Jack Bruce’s life were covered – especially his jazzier/fusion side, all of which lead up to an all-star cast singing “White Room,” led by LuLu and including Mick Taylor and… well… everyone. All this ended perfectly at ten minutes to eleven. Shepard’s Bush was happy.

-Gianluca Tramontana

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