Jack could steel the show

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BLUES legend Jack Bruce has played some of the world’s most impressive venues during an enduring career – but he hasn’t been booked for a steelworks too often.

BLUES legend Jack Bruce has played some of the world’s most impressive venues during an enduring career – but he hasn’t been booked for a steelworks too often.

The man who put his trademark bass into power trio Cream, alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, is one of the stars of the Yorkshire Blues Festival at Rotherham’s Magna Science Adventure Centre, April 30-May 2.

“I have played one in a former iron works with Sting and some other worthies,” he recalls.

At Magna on the Sunday he’ll be playing with ‘my old mate Norman Beaker’ who is curating the Alexis Korner Memorial Stage.

“He’s the foremost Alexis aficionado,” says Jack, who worked with him in Blues Incorporated.

“He’s very into Alexis and keeps his name out there, which is well deserved because he was very important in the introduction of the blues to a lot of great musicians who went on to be the British blues and rock scene.”

Jack views Blues Incorporated as his education: “That was as close as I got to university, although I did go to music college, but I don’t talk about that.”

Legend has it he left because they wouldn’t let him play jazz. “More or less, yes,” he says, before adding: “That was really how I learned my craft, with people like Alexis. That was my first big break, I was only 19 when I joined.”

Jack’s extensive CV suggests he’s been a restless artist ever since, anxious to break new ground rather than dwell on past glories.

“I like to try different things and to have a couple of bands on the go at the same time if possible.

“I’ve got my blues band I’ve been touring with and then I’ve got this American band called Spectrum Road, like a jazz rock fusion band with all sorts of great people.

“So, yes I’m a pretty restless character. I like change.”

At Magna he’ll join the likes of The Blues Band, Spencer Davies and Dr Feelgood. If he has regrets about maybe not taking some of his old bands into the 21st century, he doesn’t express them.

“Because of the way I am I’ve not really stuck in something for long enough.

“I have to put up with the way I am. It’s got good and bad sides.

“If I had one band and kept at it maybe I would have had more commercial success.

“On the other hand,” he added, “I’m still playing at this very advanced age.

“After Cream I could have gone on and reproduced that kind of music and been financially successful, but you’d be talking to a corpse right now, having a ouija board out.”

Arguably playing music well into his 60s has kept the Scottish musician fit, and young at heart.

“There’s a lot of truth to that. The music itself doesn’t age and it really helps you stay young, certainly in your outlook. But also physically; it keeps you pretty on the ball.

“Sometimes, after I’ve played, I look at my hands and they’re all beaten up and I’ve got bruises on my arms and I think ‘how did that happen?’ It’s quite a physical way that I play and I wouldn’t want to change that too much.

“The music is timeless. Sunshine Of Your Love I always thought was transcendental and it still is. I’ve done so many different versions with so many different players of that song. It takes me to a place that it did, I’m back in that place again, back in that zone.”

And of the many ‘zones’ Jack has inhabited he rightly favours Cream over The Bluesbreakers.

“That was not something I was particularly proud of because it wasn’t one of John’s great bands. I was never really a huge fan of that kind of almost-reproducing-the-blues, re-creating Chicago blues bands of the ’50s.

“I was always more interested in using the blues as a common language that’s universal and having your own twist on it.

“Not being from the Mississippi Delta I never thought it was that valid to just simply re-create those wonderful songs.

“British blues put a completely new slant on this art form, if you want to call it that. There’s something about it.

“You think about Gary Moore or Rory Gallagher, and the people before them like Eric Clapton – all those guitar players, they really had a power and it was a useful spirit to play that music in our way.

“It’s wonderful to hear, as we did, Muddy or Sonny Boy Williams, it was a joy and an inspiration, but we wanted to do it too.”

But while players like Rush’s Geddy Lee and Sting have cited Jack’s style as an inspiration, it seems to have leap-frogged his 18-year-old son.

“He’s a thrash metal drummer,” laughs Jack. “He’s not at all interested in any of the kind of stuff I tried to get him interested in. He just went his own way. At the moment he’s playing the fastest drums I’ve ever heard. His band Foreign Bodies is very good, but definitely not the blues.”

Visit www.yorkshireblues.com for festival info.