Singer, bassist and songwriter Jack Bruce, who died on October 25th at 71, spent a microscopic part of his life in the power trio, Cream: from the summer of 1966 until the end of 1968, then a brief season of reunion in 2005. That group’s original leap through electric blues and psychedelia into a genuinely progressive, vigorously improvised rock inevitably defined Bruce’s rock stardom and loomed over his work as a solo artist and collaborator for four and a half decades. But his discography was kaleidoscopic and often profoundly moving, reflecting Bruce’s early attraction to jazz, the folk songs of his Scottish heritage and a willingness to go where few rockers, certainly in the early and mid-Seventies, dared to venture.
Some of Bruce’s most notable risks and detours, after Cream, were not formally recorded, like his short-lived band with Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell and jazz-rock guitarist Larry Coryell and a ’75 troupe with ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and jazz composer-pianist Carla Bley. (The latter surfaced on a subsequent live release, Live at Manchester Free Trade Hall ’75.) Much of Bruce’s experimental life also remains elusive in the digital realm: Bruce’s striking vocal contributions to Bley’s 1971 jazz opera, Escalator Over the Hill, and on records by the composer-lyricist Michael Mantler are absent from Spotify – therefore, sadly, from this list.
But Bruce pursued a well-documented course through and outside rock, in a body of composition that recognized no borders. Start here, if you only know Cream, then stray far, every way you can – as he did.