Jack Bruce (featuring Carla Bley): Spirit
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Spirit: Live At The BBC 1971-1978 (Import 5305568)
Ronnie Leahy (keyboards), Bruce Gary (drums).
Composed by Tony Williams.
Recorded: live at BBC TV Centre, June 6, 1975
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
One of the more intriguing forays into rock by a jazz musician was Carla Bley's brief membership in Jack Bruce's band in 1975, a band that also included the vastly underrated guitarist Mick Taylor. Imagine that: one of the foremost composers, arrangers and big band leaders of modern jazz relegating herself to a sidewoman role in a band featuring Cream's bassist/vocalist and The Rolling Stones' lead guitarist!
This supergroup, like most supergroups, didn't hold together long, as Bley and Taylor left Bruce on the eve of recording what would have been the first album with this lineup. Before that, the group toured Europe extensively in late spring of 1975. The only official document of Bruce's dream band was an appearance on the BBC-TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test.
The set consisted of tunes culled mostly from Bruce's post-Cream output. The music blends the dynamism of '60s rock with complexity and unpredictability of '70s prog rock. As for Bley, she doesn't make much of an impression until the instrumental fusion piece "Spirit."
"Spirit" is rooted in a funky, ascending chord bass riff, which of course Bruce exploits to the hilt. Taylor gets plenty of room to lay down some tasty licks, something he felt constrained from doing in his former band. Bley on a Moog joins Taylor on some unison lines, and after Taylor solos, Bley shows off her own improvising skills. Overlooking the fact that it's being done with a painfully dated spacey analog synth, Bley acquits herself nicely, displaying a soulful intensity that wouldn't have been out of place on a Jeff Beck record of that period.
If Escalator Over The Hill didn't prove that there's nothing Carla Bley can't do, jamming convincingly with British rock superstars should.
Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron