It is with very heavy hearts that we bring you the sad news of the passing of music legend Jack Bruce. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and a true friend to us here. The world is an undeniably dimmer place today. Our thoughts are with his family and friends…
Jack Bruce had a long and storied career. Rock/Jazz/Blues… it didn’t matter to Jack. He was a composer, multi-instrumentalist, brilliant singer, and he also defined the bass guitar for a generation as a member of the 60’s supergroup, Cream. All of it done with effortless genius and grace…
I wanted to share you a quick story about the kind of man Jack Bruce was. Back in 2008, just after Jeff’s passing, a handful of us jammed about 6 months worth of work into 6 weeks and pulled off an amazing (if I do say so myself) tribute concert. Ultimately, Jeff Healey: a Celebration was a wonderful wake and tribute to our dear friend. It spanned two separate concerts over two days, encompassing both Jeff’s Rock/Blues career and his deep love of traditional jazz. The Rock show would end up featuring Ian Gillan, Randy Bachman, Colin James, Blue Rodeo and many more… including the subject of this particular story…
I had to go out of town during the first week of planning but the minute I returned and got up to speed we started putting together lists of people we knew Jeff liked and had at the very least performed with before. We got his phone book translated from braille and got to work. One of the top names on my short list was, I thought, unattainable. Jack Bruce.
Here’s Jeff Healey & Jack Bruce performing together at the Pistoia Festival in 1993
So, armed with his home number, I gave him a call. He answered and I was freaking out on the inside. I explained who I was and why I was bothering him at home and would he like to come and play?
He answered without hesitation, “Roger, just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.”
I hung up the phone shaking. I’d made the call from Jeff’s house in case Jack had call display and wondered who the hell was calling. I walked downstairs to a group of friends and Jeff’s wife Cristie and I freakin’ lost it.
“We got Jack f@*!ing Bruce!!!”
Fast forward to five weeks later. It was the day before the show and Jack Bruce was slated to arrive soon. We had a car set up to take him to the venue for a brief rehearsal with the Jeff Healey Blues Band, the backing band for most of the artists on the bill.
Over the past few weeks I’d been Jack Bruce’s only contact to the event. We corresponded back and forth over details, I found a flight for him that wouldn’t break our bank and when I sent him the details for approval, he went ahead and booked it himself and told me we’d settle up later… yet another indication of what kind of man he was.
So back to rehearsal night. Things were going smoothly, other artists were reviewing their sets, Jack’s flight got in on time and we were awaiting his arrival. My cell phone rang. It was Jack (or as I’d taken to jokingly referring to him amongst the others, ‘my good and dear friend Jack Bruce’). He sounded tired and *not* happy.
Me – “Jack! Where are you? Everything’s all set for your rehearsal.”
Jack – “I’m at the hotel. Listen Rog, the guy who picked me up at the airport didn’t help me with my road case and it’s pretty heavy… I’m not a young man anymore and it’s all been a bit ‘do-it-yerself’ up to now…”
Me – (freaking out inside) “Jesus Jack I’m *so* sorry! The guy should have helped you with your stuff! I promise we’ll make this right and…”
Jack – (calmer now) “No, look I’m not havin’ a go. I’m just tired.”
Me – “Jack, there’s a car waiting downstairs for you. If you go to the concierge, he’ll grab the car and get someone to gather up your gear. I’m so sorry.”
Jack – “Ok Rog. If you say the guy’s there and he’ll take care of things, I’ll head down. I’ll see you soon.”
I spent the next 20 minutes pacing and freaking out. Crap! I was Jack’s only contact with this event. I had to make this right.
Finally we saw the town car pull up. I grabbed one of the other organizers, Rob Quail and headed out. The car had tinted windows and we couldn’t see inside at all. We walked up to the car door and stood there. A minute went by. Nothing. Rob turned to me and said, “Well, this is awkward.” I laughed nervously.
Just then, my phone rang. It was Jack Bruce calling me from inside the car.
Jack – “Is this Roger?”
Me – “Yeah Jack.”
Jack – “Which one are ya?”
Me – (starting to laugh again, I leaned down to the car window) “I’m the one with the f*@!ing phone in my hand.”
At this point the driver started to laugh and said over his shoulder to the back seat, “Why don’t you just roll down the window?”
The window rolled down… on the other side of the car.
Jack – (bellowing) “Come here ya (bleep)ing (bleep)!”
I walked around the car as the door was opening. Jack Bruce got out and gave me the biggest hug and beaming smile ever. “Oh thank god.” I exhaled. Everything was gonna work out.
His performance that night was brilliant and effortless. He was a presence, a force, elevating the packed audience as he loudly proclaimed we weren’t there to mourn Jeff’s passing, but instead, to celebrate his life. He owned the stage.
The next day I had the very great pleasure of sharing a few drinks, some good conversation and more than a few laughs with Jack at the wonderful Jazz half of the Jeff Healey tribute celebrations. In a bittersweet time jammed solid with memories and emotion, Jack’s presence added to an afternoon I already knew I’d never forget…
In the brief years that followed, Jack and I continued to stay in loose contact by email. I was fortunate enough to see him one more time in person when he came through town a couple of years back with Spectrum Road, a passionate tribute to the Tony Williams Lifetime. Jack was gracious as ever, making certain we had passes and tickets and even taking time out of Spectrum Road’s brilliant set to say a few kind words and dedicate a song to Jeff’s memory…
Rest easy Jack. ~Rog
14/05/1943 – 25/10/2014
(The official statement from Jack Bruce’s family…
“It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend. The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts.”)