Jack Bruce was a British bassist and singer. He recorded "The Sherwood Forest Tapes" demo with Allan and Jon Hiseman, and appeared with him on "Land Of Cockayne". Jack sang lead vocals on the "Road Games" album. Allan appeared on two tracks of Jack's album "A Question Of Time".
Although he is known to most electric guitar fans, and regarded by many as one of the world’s best and most distinctive guitarists, Allan Holdsworth has never achieved a widespread popularity or success. The main reason is that apart from occasional gigs with the nebulous Allan Holdsworth Quartet, he has always played in other people’s bands, notably UK, Tony William’s Lifetime, the Bill Bruford Band and Soft Machine. This year sees the beginning of a new project which may do much to change that - a trio called Holdsworth & Co in which Allan will play guitar and sing, Gary Husband will play drums and piano, and the bassist will be a player whose name we cannot divulge for contractual reasons, but who is at present playing in another well known band. Allan is very excited about Holdsworth & Co, as he feels it will enable him to show a hitherto unknown side of his playing and music. He played us a demo tape recorded with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman of tunes the band will perform, numbers in which the balance of strong melody and instrumental ability is well maintained, and featuring some beautiful chordal work from Allan, as well as his unique ability to play fast legato passages. He says that Holdsworth & Co will sound different but certainly as good, and they commence a European and British tour in Hamburg on April 8. They will release an album later in the year, perhaps on ECM.
There’s more space in this music because it’s a three-piece, but I’m also working a lot harder than normal. It came about when I had a blow with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman, and we were toying with the idea of trying to get that team together, but it came unstuck because we all had different problems at the same time. We made a demo at a studio during a couple of evenings and turned out half an album. I enjoyed it so much, it triggered the idea of a three-piece, and I knew that’s what I’d like to do. It’s taken a long time to sort out, and we’re off now, hopefully.
How did you come to get Jack Bruce to sing on “Was There?” and “Material Real” on Road Games? That was at the request of the record company. They didn’t want me to use Paul, the original singer, ’cause they said they didn’t like him. And they weren’t going to let me put the album out at all if I didn’t use a famous singer. So I said that I wanted to use Jack, ’cause he was the only famous singer that I liked out of the guys that they were talking about.
In search of a rhythm section to call his own, Holdsworth "met this really amazing drummer, Gary Husband, and I more or less saw it as a musical partnership with him. We tried to find a bass player - with great difficulty - and eventually found Paul Carmichael. We tried to get someone interested in the band, but we couldn’t, so we borrowed the money and made the album on our own and tried to sell it. We couldn’t even give it away." It was around this time that the redoubtable Paul Williams re-entered our story. Williams’ long career as a rock singer/bassist included four years in the trenches with Andy Summers in Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and stints with Alan Price, John Mayall, Aynsley Dunbar, Juicy Lucy and, of course, Tempest, where his work sounded noticeably like Cream-era Jack Bruce ("Well, maybe he sounds like me...," rebuts Paul).
Thus began the search for a Famous Person to sing Paul’s songs. Says Allan, "The famous people they were suggesting I just didn’t want. It would’ve made us sound more like anybody else. I hate fashion, so I said I knew someone who just might fit the bill, who also happened to be someone that I loved: Jack Bruce."
Considering how it came about, it is nothing short of a miracle that Road Games sounds as good as it does. A fine variety of jazz-rock styles make up the six-song "Maxi-EP" (a way for Warners to cut its losses?), from the Methenyesque impressionism of "Three Sheets To The Wind" to the metal of the title cut to the cinematic, street-scene textures of "Tokyo Dream." The three vocal tunes lend an accessibility to the record, with Bruce’s familiar passion articulating ambitious, soaring melodies.
During the next couple of years Gary’s growing reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative drummers around earned him a level of respect equalled only by the amount of gigs he was picking up. At various times he was to be found occupying the hot seat with Gordon Beck, Mike Carr, The Morrisey Mullen Band, Turning Point, RMS, The Ronnie Scott Quintet, The Gil Evans Orchestra and eventually Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia. It was under this mantle that he came to the attention of Holdsworth, who had popped in to the Ronnie Scott’s, accompanied by Jack Bruce, with the express intention of recruiting a new band.
"All I’d ever done was play guitar for other people and I just wanted to do my own thing. And then I met Gary Husband at the same time and started to do that. And we tried really hard when I was in England - in fact I had a little band together before IOU, with Jon Hiseman and Jack Bruce. And we did a couple of demos. And we couldn’t get anyone interested at all. Just shortly after that was when I met Gary and we were just banging our heads against the Wall but we kept going. And there was a club in France called Riverbop and there was a really nice lady there called Jacqueline Ferrari. She liked us and she would bring us over there for like two weeks at a time, playing this little jazz club. It was great, but she was the only person who really gave us a chance.
"So I offered him Jack Bruce, an old mate of mine, and Ted, who never came near the studio, said ‘Yeah, great, gold record.’ But at the last minute I switched the mixes on ‘Road Games’, the title track, not because Jack wasn’t good, he was, but because of my friendship with Paul. And then I got a phone call from Templeman while we were on the road, saying ‘That’s it, you’re fired, you’re off the label’ I sacrificed my record deal because of him (Williams). A fucking miserable experience for both of us."
MM: Here’s a fun one: What did Tony Williams like about your playing? AH: I don’t know. (laughter) We played together originally with Jack Bruce. He called me after forming his own band after that recording, but he never said anything to me. (laughter) I guess he liked what I did cause he dragged me across the world.
Upon returning to the states, Johnson heard that Tony Williams was putting a new band together and remembered the British guitarist he had played with one night at Ronnie Scott’s. He recommended Holdsworth to Williams, which led to the fateful phone call. “Tony asked me to come to Sweden to join him for a recording,” he recalls. “There was Jack Bruce on bass, Webster Lewis on organ and Tequila, who was Tony’s girlfriend at the time, was singing on it. We recorded a bunch of Tony’s tunes there, but I don’t think the album ever came out.”