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Jeff Berlin — Jack Songs
((Not on label) no#, 2022, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-11-27

Jack Songs Cover art

It often happens that when an influential musician dies, other musicians pay homage to them by releasing new versions of their music. Bassist Jeff Berlin takes a somewhat different path in his tribute to Jack Bruce, who died in 2014. There are covers of several songs that Bruce wrote, including “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” “Rope Ladder to the Moon,” and “A Letter of Thanks,” but they are mixed up with such things as “Creamed.” This track is credited to Jack Bruce and Pete Brown (Bruce’s lyricist), but it consists of several of Bruce’s Cream songs mashed together in a kind of Spot-the-Riff game. Berlin also contributes a couple of original pieces, “Traintime Time” and “Fuimus (We Have Been),” the latter of which features Pete Brown lyrics. The list of guest musicians Berlin recruited for this project is nothing short of astounding, and too long to go into fully: Alex Ligertwood, Sammy Hagar, Gary Husband, Alex Lifeson, Eric Johnon, Scott Henderson, Bill Frisell, and many more. Most unexpectedly, there are numerous guest bassists (Tony Levin, Billy Sheehan, Michael League, Mark King, Ron Carter, Marcus Miller, Nathan East, and Geddy Lee), which leads to the question, Why would one of the world’s best bassists invite other bassists onto his album? The answer is that each of them takes a turn in the “bass relay” of “Smiles Story and Morning Grins,” which is itself a kind of relay combining “Smiles and Grins” and “Morning Story” off Harmony Row. It sounds like each bassist gets a four-bar slot, and they go around twice. (Not sure if that’s exactly it, but you get the idea.) In any case, Berlin’s stellar assemblage works admirably, and Jack Songs is both a fitting tribute to a true original and an exciting listen in its own right.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Bill Frisell, Tony Levin, Jack Bruce, Jeff Berlin, Gary Husband, Geddy Lee

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