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The Late Jack Bruce Throws a Belated Birthday Party

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Jack Bruce: The 50th Birthday Concerts MIG Music, Multiple Formats

When Jack Bruce passed away late last year at the age of 71, every story and obituary led, understandably, with his best known musical job as the bassist for Cream. But in fact, Bruce had a wide and diverse journeyman career before and after the relatively short lifespan of the legendary power trio with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

As a solo artist, bandleader and band member, music he composed and/or played touched not just on hard blues-rock, but also jazz, world music, avant-garde, and classical. And he was just as comfortable at the piano or holding a guitar as the bass.

In 1993, he Bruce played host to two nights of shows in Cologne, Germany, ostensibly to celebrate his half a century of life. What ensued - and thankfully captured on these DVDs - is a journey through the man's musical life, chock full of guest stars and former band mates.

That lineup -- which shuffled on an off the stage at various times over the two nights -- included Baker, early influence/saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, frequent collaborator Clem Clempson, pianist Bernie Worrell, drummer Simon Phillips, singer Maggie Reilly, lyrical collaborator Pete Brown, and (most memorably) fiery guitar god Gary Moore among them.

Highlights dot the basic two-DVD package including lesser known material like "Childsong," "Over the Cliff," "Smiles & Grins," "Neighbor, Neighbor" and the more familiar "Theme from an Imaginary Western."

Of special interest is when it's just Baker (looking presumably rumpled, cigarette hanging from his mouth) and Heckstall-Smith on some quality jazz material. And Clempson gets plenty of stage time as well.

For rock fans, the highlight will be the end of DVD two as Moore joins the party for a stinging, sweaty run through Cream numbers including "NSU," "Politician," "Spoonful," and "White Room." His helter-skelter playing more of a match for Clapton's original takes than Clempson's more mild-mannered interpretations.

Fans of Bruce should be overjoyed that this show has been rescued from the rich (and seemingly endless) vaults of the peerless German television show Rockpalast.

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