An Evening For Jack
Tuesday 25th October
Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Last Tuesday night's 'An Evening For Jack' at the newly reopened Shepherds Bush Empire, marked the two year anniversary of the late Cream bassist's passing in 2014, aged 71. Curated by Bob Harris plus Cream collaborator Pete Brown, and organised by Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm, it commemorated his extraordinary career, walking through the major aspects of Jack's musical life, from the early days touring with bands like the Graham Bond Organisation, through to Cream and beyond. All proceeds raised went to Nordoff Robbins and Jack’s favourite local charity, East Anglian Children’s Hospices.
In March this year, we had the pleasure of seeing the fourth member of Cream, Pete Brown, perform at a British Blues Exhibition gig at The Proud in Camden. In fact we enjoyed it so much that two weeks later we went to see Pete again at the intimate setting of The Troubador in London's Old Brompton Road - another excellent set which also featured Malcolm Bruce. Consequently buying tickets for 'An Evening Of Jack' - with its advertised array of legendary musicians paying their tributes - was a no brainer - although with the 'special guests' rumour mill in overdrive - it only added to our anticipation - just like kids in the proverbial chocolate factory.
Whispering Bob Harris returned to his '70's BBC stomping ground by introducing Eddie Reader who sang 'My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose' followed by Paul Young with Clem Clempson on guitar and Corky Laing on drums on 'Born Under A Bad Sign'. The first big hitter of the evening was 'White Room' with Terry Reid on vocals, supported by Chris Spedding, Mo Foster and of course Mick Taylor playing that classic guitar solo on his Les Paul. Jack's granddaughter Maya Sage was also on backing vocals - who also later sang later 'Out Into The Fields' accompanied by Gary Moore's son Jack! If there was ever a song that epitomised the roots of both Brown and Bruce it has to be 'Politician'. Pete's passion and delivery in a red fiery shirt left you in no doubt of his political persuasion - a song centred around the '60's Profumo scandal - this time performed with Neil Murray on bass and Bernie Marsden on guitar. Superb.
Our surprise in seeing Corky Laing offset the disappointment of no Billy Cobham - however, the sudden appearance of WRC favourite and Inglorious vocalist Nathan James was not only one of the highlight's of the evening but an opportunity for Nathan to get the recognition he deserves. Well he certainly did that with 'Spoonful' joined by a certain Steve Hackett slightly hidden behind an enormous lectern plus David Sancious and also on 'Without A Word' with Ronnie Leahy on keys. Understandably, with a cast of thousands (well not quite) - the turnaround was slow which resulted in no interval. Anyway, you've guessed it - during my comfort break I could hear the strains of 'Theme From An Imaginary Western' - and quickly returned to my seat to enjoy this classic with Brown on vocals, Taylor and Clempson on guitar and Laing on drums.
A bit like 'Trigger's Broom' - I never actually saw Cream - but have now successfully seen the component parts over the last eleven years. I first saw Jack in June 2005 perform Cream with Gary Husband (who also performed tonight) and the late great Gary Moore at London's Astoria in a tribute to one of Britain’s most colourful and innovative musicians Dick Heckstall Smith. Six years later I saw Eric Clapton join Joe Bonamassa on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. And I hoped to complete the holy trinity when I attended Ramblin' Man in Maidstone in July earlier this year but unfortunately Ginger was unwell. So step forward on to the Shepherd's Bush Empire stage Mr. Baker - who six month's after his heart operation - hasn't fully recovered. In perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening Ginger told the story of the 1962 Cambridge University May Ball as he and Dick Heckstall Smith were approached by a scruffy little bugger (Jack) who persisted that he wanted to sit and play. Anyway, to suss Jack out, Dick and Ginger played a ballad with numerous chord changes and subsequently adopted wee Jack who moved from Glasgow to London to play in Johnny Parker's Band. Baker concluded "I'm still here, but Jack isn't, which is very sad - we played some great music together" - then Ginger - despite his health problems - proceeded to play a two minute drum solo with his percussionist pal Abbass from Ghana. Amazing.
Vocalist Maggie Reilly performed both 'Rope Ladder To The Moon' and 'Ships In The Night - although the honour of singing 'Sunshine Of Your Love' went to another member of the Scottish Mafia, Lulu - with fittingly Malcolm Bruce on bass and Pete Brown banging his tambourine in the background. Other performers on a marvellous evening included Aruba Red (Jack's daughter), Trevor Horn, Jeff Berlin, Dennis Chambers,Tramper Price, Emma Wilson, Jasmine Rodgers (Paul's daughter), Freyja Pibworth , Ollie, Calum Ingram, Jack's nephew Nico Bruce, Guy Pratt, Norman Beaker, Will John and Judd Lander. Suffice to say that on this evidence Jack's legacy is in safe hands!