Jack Bruce finally broke free from Cream following their Farewell tour in September 1968. The mutli-purpose player had tried to bring in different elements — classical, jazz and more adventurous harmonic excursions — but Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton wanted nothing to do with it. The band broke up and saw Clapton and Baker team up with ex-Traffic vocalist Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith.
In the meantime, Jack was about to set sail on the second part of his journey. Free from the shackles of a proper band, he would go on to test the waters as a solo artist. His first record, Songs For A Tailor, was an ingenious blend of jazz and rock and represented truly some of the greatest songs he would ever compose. Many other projects would follow with everyone from Tony Williams and Gary Moore to Leslie West and Robin Trower.
Goldmine: Songs For A Tailor was you breaking free from Cream and finally having the opportunity to truly express yourself.
Jack Bruce: Yeah, it was really the direction I wanted to go in. I wanted to use horns in some of the tracks; I wanted to be able to have a different sound. I wanted to get away from this sort of virtuoso-type playing that Cream was famous for.
I wanted to find simpler players, which is why I got somebody like Chris Spedding (guitar) for instance and John Marshall (drums), in particular. Very steady, simple, good players but more like … not so — how can I put it without putting them down? — they’re not actually creating huge egotistical things on the record. You know, they’re just sort of playing the songs. That’s it, yeah. Just actually playing the songs, and so, it’s the songs that are the thing.
And also, I didn’t want any big productions; I wanted Songs For A Tailor just to be like almost like a diary of a songwriter. Without having huge productions, I would just sort of do the song, just sort of acoustic guitars or whatever I was using on that particular track.
GM: The sound of your bass on Songs For A Tailor had this amazing quality to it.
JB: Yeah, well, all it was was I was still playing the EB3 Gibson, and I found this amazing 50 watt Marshall. Because I used to use bigger ones, big 100 watts or 200 watts. But this was a little 50-watt Marshall kind of combo, and it just had a great sound. I don’t know what happened to that little set-up; I wish I still had it. It just had this really nice growly little sound; it was quiet, but it was very expressive. I got exactly the sound I wanted for that record having that set-up.
GM: What was it like playing with Tony Williams? When you go into a session, and you know Tony is going to be sitting behind the kit instead of Ginger, does your approach need to change?
JB: It’s going to be different. Oh, yeah! Tony was a great player; I mean, I think Ginger is a great player. And I would say Tony was as great a player in his own way. But, I always thought Tony as a continuation of the sort of traditional American jazz drummer. You know, like going from Baby Dodds way back in the old days right up through Elvin Jones to Tony Williams, if you know what I mean. So that was for me, that was a great honor to be playing with him as well.
GM: You played with John McLaughlin in the Tony Williams band. But you had actually played with John way back in the early ’60s with the Graham Bond Quartet.
JB: Yeah, John I played with a lot. But John changed. On my solo record, if you remember, on Things We Like, he was just beginning to change his style. Still playing fairly traditional jazz guitar, but he’s taking it out as well. So, right about that time he was really changing into this very different kind of guitar [player].