Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jack Bruce - 1970 [2003] "Things We Like"

Things We Like is a jazz album by bassist Jack Bruce.
The album was Bruce's second solo album to reach the market; it was released in the United Kingdom in late 1970, and in the United States in early 1971. However, it was his first solo album to be recorded, as it was recorded in August 1968, while Bruce was still a member of the rock power trio Cream.
Things We Like is Bruce's only instrumental album, mostly containing tunes that Bruce claims to have composed in 1955, when he was twelve years of age. The album also prominently features Bruce's technique on the double bass, an instrument he rarely otherwise recorded with.
Whereas most of Bruce's recorded work prior to this album was in the rock or blues music genres, Things We Like is jazz-flavoured, in particular drawing from 1950s bebop and 1960s free jazz influences. The album did not chart upon its release.
Bruce had previously worked with two of his backing musicians on Things We Like – guitarist John McLaughlin and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith – during his tenures with the Graham Bond Organisation and Graham Bond Quartet prior to joining Cream. (In particular, the Graham Bond Quartet, including Bruce and McLaughlin, produced a live recording of Things We Like's "HCKHH Blues", under its full title "Ho Ho Country Kickin' Blues", in 1963; this track appears on the 1970 Graham Bond compilation album Solid Bond.) Bond's band was also Bruce's connection to drummer Jon Hiseman, who joined that band after Bruce's departure. Bruce would subsequently work again with McLaughlin in The Tony Williams Lifetime, and completed his last tour with Lifetime in the UK in late 1970, at about the time Things We Like was released there.
The track "Ageing Jack Bruce, Three, From Scotland, England" was recorded during the album's sessions but omitted from the album due to the length restrictions of the LP.
The original album featured a distinctly jazz stereo mix with the drums in the right hand channel only, similar to Miles Davis's 1960s Quintet releases. The 1988 US Polydor CD release featured a more rock-oriented mix with the drums centered, and bass and sax in the left and right channels respectively. The 2003 CD re-issue features the original jazz mix. While both mono and stereo versions of Things We Like were issued as promotional albums to US radio stations in 1971, a mono version of the album has not been commercially issued. Wiki

Enthusiasts expecting to hear a continuation of the type of material that Jack Bruce (bass) had been responsible for during his tenure(s) with Cream or the Graham Bond Organisation might be in for quite a shock when spinning Things We Like (1970) for the first time. Instead of an album's worth of blues-based rockers, the seven instrumentals feature Bruce with other former Graham Bond stablemates John McLaughlin (guitar), Jon Hiseman (drums), and Dick Heckstall-Smith (sax) performing post-bop and free jazz. A majority of the compositions were penned by Bruce in his preteen days of formal scholarship at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, where he also mastered the cello and composed a string quartet at the age of 11. After having gained significant clout from Cream, Bruce assembled what was initially a trio. However, after a chance meeting with McLaughlin -- who was so broke he had to refuse an offer to fly stateside to join the newly formed Tony Williams Lifetime -- Bruce incorporated the guitarist into the fold in order to help him finance his journey, which was ultimately successful. The entire effort was recorded and mixed in less than a week during August of 1968 -- less than three months prior to the infamous Farewell Concert of Cream at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.
As a testament to Bruce's expansive musical tastes, capabilities, and horizons, this disc sounds more like a collection of Rahsaan Roland Kirk sides than anything even remotely connected with Cream. This is especially true of the frenetic pacing of the brief opener, "Over the Cliff." Heckstall-Smith's ability to perform alto and soprano saxophone simultaneously likewise lends itself to Kirk's distinct reed polyphony. "Statues" is an interesting exercise, again with Heckstall-Smith providing some excellent extemporaneous blows during the darkly toned introduction working well against the nimble melody. While Hiseman's style is decidedly less aggressive than that of Ginger Baker, his drumming helps to amalgamate the song's various sections. McLaughlin's unmistakably sinuous leads are commanding throughout the "Sam Enchanted Dick" medley, with a cover of Milt Jackson's "Sam's Sack" and a Heckstall-Smith original titled "Rills Thrills." The tempo is slowed on the smoky cover of Mel Tormé's "Born to Be Blue." This interpretation is part West Coast cool and part Chicago-style blues. McLaughlin's contributions to "HCKHH Blues" is similar to that of Robert Fripp's jazzy fretwork throughout the Islands (1971) era King Crimson. While it was the first of Bruce's solo records to be recorded, he chose to issue the more rock-oriented Songs for a Tailor (1969) prior to Things We Like, which was perhaps considered an indulgent side project rather than a permanent musical diversion. [The 2003 CD reissue contains the previously unissued track "Ageing, Jack Bruce, Three, from Scotland, England," which is another brilliant Heckstall-Smith piece with all four musicians in top form -- especially McLaughlin, who provokes a variety of sonic imagery, ranging from intense fingerpicking to chiming notes and chord augmentations.] All Music.

I was blown away by this album when it came out, and am thrilled by its release at last on CD. It easily rivals anything by the jazz stars of then or now. (For example, I got the acclaimed album by jazz super group ScoLoHoFo at the same time, and it just isn't as intersting/engaging, despite the star names attached--Scofield, Lovano, etc.). Things We Like features creative, skilled playing by all, and wonderfully novel compositions by Bruce--not the usual post-bop noodlings. By Craig Weatherby

This is a straight ahead jazz ablum with Jack on acoustic double bass and no singing (but some voaclizing,though). It's a brilliant jazz album and can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the greats. It's too bad he did not pursue at least one more album with this fabulous line-up. It's really amazing when you consider that he was still a member fo Cream when this was recorded and that John McLaughlin, who had played with Jack briefly in the Graham Bond Organization, had little name recognition at this point in his career. All that creative energy really shines - as does long time buddy Dick H-S and Colleseum drummer (and Songs for a Tailor drummer) Jon Hiseman. Jack, himself, sounds as if he never gave up the double bass. His bowing is also quite soulful. I originally bought this album when I was a Jack Bruce fan - not a jazz enthusiast. I've since become one and it makes me appreciate this release all the more.  By Studebacher Hoch.

I have to admit i was VERY surprised when i heard about this (AND when i heard this for the first time!). I did not know such a gem existed until this year (2008). And i am an real fan of old stuff by McLaughlin. How this escaped my attention is beyond me. This is an excellent british jazz 1968 type album that has aged superbly thanks to it's guitar, dr, sax and bass creative, high voltage, energy... always in the free / be bop style of jazz. Bruce is outstanding as are the others, Hiseman & Dick Heckstall-Smith...and McLaughlin plays great on 6 of the 8 titles. Recommended if you liked 'Extrapolation' and the first 2 albums by Tony Williams Lifetime. By Speedy VINE VOICE 

Track listing

All compositions by Jack Bruce, unless otherwise noted.

    1. "Over the Cliff" – 2:56
    2. "Statues" – 7:35
    3. "Sam Enchanted Dick" – 7:28
        a. "Sam Sack" (Milt Jackson)
        b. "Rill's Thrills" (Dick Heckstall-Smith)
    4. "Born to be Blue" (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells) – 4:26
    5. "HCKHH Blues" – 8:59
    6. "Ballad for Arthur" – 7:42
    7. "Things We Like" – 3:38

Bonus track on Polydor's 2003 CD reissue
    8. "Ageing Jack Bruce, Three, From Scotland, England" (Heckstall-Smith) – 5:20

Personnel

    Jack Bruce – double bass, session leader
    Dick Heckstall-Smith – soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
    Jon Hiseman – drums
    John McLaughlin – guitar 
 

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