Spectrum Road: Lifetime Achievers

Cream's Jack Bruce and his famous friends explore the music of a forgotten great.

Thanks to popular compilations like Cream of Clapton and Complete Clapton, history has relegated classic hits like "I Feel Free," "White Room," and "Sunshine of Your Love" to the songs-written-by-Eric-Clapton department. In truth, these melodies were penned by the vocalist and bassist of those Cream hits: Jack Bruce. 40 years later, Bruce isn't bemoaning the fact that most people attribute them to his more-famous former bandmate.

"He might get the credit," Bruce told me over the phone recently, "but I get the cash."

While not too concerned with burnishing his own bona fides, Bruce does bristle at the notion that his late friend and collaborator, Tony Williams, hasn't received the accolades he deserves. The drummer, who famously went to work for Miles Davis at age 16, pioneered the merger of jazz and rock. "The very first real jazz-rock band was The Tony Williams Lifetime," says Bruce, who was once a member. "A lot of people think it was Miles Davis. But Tony was doing it before Miles."

In tribute, Bruce enlisted a few like-minded players to form Spectrum Road, a group that celebrates and emulates the music of Williams' forward-thinking band. They only planned to play a benefit concert or two, but have released a record and are about to make their second swing through Seattle. The lineup playing this week is that of Spectrum Road's self-titled debut album, with Living Colour's Vernon Reid on guitar and Medeski, Martin, and Wood's John Medeski playing keyboards. Holding down the hot seat is drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, whose resume includes years of service with Lenny Kravitz and her husband, Carlos Santana, as well as lessons from Williams when she was a teenager.

"Sometimes when I close my eyes," Bruce says, "[she] just sounds like Tony playing."


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