A unique recording from Jack-Of-All-Trade's another supergroup, his most elastic band of all.
Jack Bruce needs equal talents to bloom in full, that's obvious from either CREAM or the "Friends" ensemble the bassist had in the '80s with Billy Cobham, Clem Clempson and David Sancious, but it's never been blues rock where his heart really is. Classically trained cellist with an operatic vocal approach, it was his love to jazz that made Dick Heckstall-Smith pluck Bruce from Scotland to London and stardom that Jack wasn't too comfortable with. His first solo album "Things We Like", out as the second, explored improvisations rather than song structure, and he was only happy to defect Britain to join Tony Williams' LIFETIME a bit later, and when his second power trio, with MOUNTAIN's Leslie West and Corky Laing, folded, Jack embraced the opportunity to form a band of his own, on home turf, with Carla Bley and fellow Scotsman Ronnie Leahy from STONE THE CROWS on keyboards, to ensure the jazziness was there, plus THE ROLLING STONES' renegade Mick Taylor on guitar and Bruce Gary on drums to balance it with the blues. And it was even closer to home, at Manchester's "Free Trade Hall" in June 1975, that the short-lived line-up recorded this performance, their only full-blown concert document and a testament to their versatility in stretching out.
On stage, there was no looking back and no riding the hits from Jack's old days, with only "Sunshine Of Your Love" to lay down its riff as an axis for, paradoxically, lighthearted finale, whereas the genuine feast for extemporization is served with Williams' heavy, energetic fusion instrumental "Spirit", from LIFETIME's 1974 sessions that the bassist was a part of, and Bruce's own angular "Smile And Grins", all 24 rippling minutes of it including the leader's dynamic solo, with his six-string foil in the lyrical, reflective mode. The eye of this hurricane, though, is the lengthy medley combining Bruce's obscure masterpiece "Tickets To Waterfalls" which betrays his academic roots and the expertise in minimal music - although it's the keyboard players who lift the piece's pearly lid here until the whole ensemble rocks its cradle - with romantic, organ-oiled molasses of "Weird Of Hermiston" and rhythm section's ska joke hogging the slider-caressed heart of "Post War".
Still, the show starts in the most elegant way as Bruce warbles shortly "Can You Follow", over Leahy's sparse piano, before "Morning Story" unravels in all its funky, ivories-sprinkled glory where the leader's four-string weapon comes forward to jive in the ever-intensifying light as it does in the graceful surge of "Keep It Down" from the then-fresh "Out Of The Storm" album on between Taylor's laconic runs. Another new song, "Pieces Of Mind", takes the band to a more freefall territory that often leaves Jack's voice in the warm company of Bley's Hammond, while Gary keeps a baroque groove under the bass. Similar solemnity bears the best vocal performance on offer, the translucent "One", married here to the jolly New Orleans roll of "You Burned The Tables On Me", its sprawl housing more infectious solo bursts.
With the veteran's '70s live tapes thin on the ground, these 2 CDs would have been fantastic even if their content was less inspired. But it is, which makes the recording a treasure.