Thursday, 12 July 2018

Review: Sunshine of Your Love - A Concert for Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce was one of the greatest creative forces in twentieth century popular music, yet even now the true impact of his work is hard to assess. He was far ahead then, and it seems he still is today. Putting aside Cream for a moment, the man's remarkable solo output represents a wide embrace of not just rock but also blues, jazz, folk and classical. To these ears, it is some of the finest music ever committed to vinyl.

This evening a few of us are fortunate enough to witness a special screening of Sunshine Of Your Love, a document of the Jack Bruce tribute concert that took place on 24th October 2015, a year after his passing. Directed by Kyla Simone Bruce, Jack's younger daughter, it's immediately clear that this film was made with much love and care.

When the concert was announced, there were those of us who queried the line-up. Several of the artists selected to perform that night at the Roundhouse didn't appear to have any obvious connection to the music of Jack Bruce. Attending the premiere of the film, it becomes apparent that in many senses this assumption was wrong. 

The film is bookended by two archive clips of Jack performing live. Interestingly, the first is a raw harmonica performance of 'Train Time', a tune he'd first recorded in the mid sixties with Graham Bond, while the latter finds him at the piano for a spellbinding rendition of the timeless 'Theme For An Imaginary Western'. For a fan, this footage is fascinating viewing. But for those who know less of the man, it's a way of giving a glimpse into the kind of versatility he demonstrated throughout his career. 

Nitin Sawhney had the unenviable task of musically directing the entire evening, and it seems he did as well as could be hoped. An event of this nature is almost inevitably going to be scrappy. With the constant changes in personnel, the stage presentation often lacked a clear focus. Still, there was an abundance of esteemed artists from different areas of music, and an impressive array of skilled singers in particular. 

The likes of Mark King, Bernie Marsden, Clem Clempson, Liam Bailey, Uli Jon Roth, Phil Manzanera and Ian Anderson all delivered heartfelt performances. Have I missed any names? Of course I have. Let's not forget Joss Stone's authoritative rendition of 'Never Tell Your Mother She's Out Of Tune'. But for many of us there were two unforgettable contributions that stood out. The first was Ayanna-Witter Johnson's unique reading of 'Rope The Ladder To The Moon'. The second was by Jack's other daughter Natascha, who performs under the name Aruba Red. Her interpretation of the beautiful 'Folk Song' was, well... beautiful.

Let's not dwell on Ginger Baker's awkward appearance, or the fact that neither Jack's lyricist Pete Brown nor his son Malcolm chose to participate. As both Kyla and Natscha made clear in the Q & A session afterwards, their primary aim with both the concert and the film was to highlight some aspects of Jack Bruce's music that have been somewhat overlooked. In this, it's fair to say they succeeded.

Writer: George Colwan

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