During an historic interview at Music Player headquarters on February 4, 2011, bass icon Jack Bruce (Cream) and innovative guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour) announced that the Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute band with keyboardist John Medeski (Medeski, Martin, & Wood), and drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana (Lenny Kravitz) has morphed into Spectrum Road. The band will continue to use the spirit of legendary jazz drummer Tony Williams (who passed away in 1997) as a touchstone for playing the music of his pioneering Lifetime fusion groups, as well as for moving forward with original material.
“The name ‘Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute’ was accurate in one sense because we are specifically targeting that period,” said Reid about the band that started playing shows together in 2008, “but it was too limiting because we’re more inspired by the spirit of Tony Williams and his approach to music. It became important for this ensemble to have an identity of its own, and not for it to be tied or frozen by nostalgia for the past.”
“Tony would never have wanted that,” said Bruce, who joined Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Larry Young in Lifetime after Cream split up in 1969. “Spectrum Road is using Lifetime as a starting point—and we’ll always play those tunes—but Spectrum Road is evolving and moving forward.
“Lifetime is the inspiration for this thing that happens when we improvise freely,” said Reid. “Since we’re already engaged in that, I think is totally valid for people to bring in songs.”
Reid and Bruce confirmed that Spectrum Road is fielding offers from major festivals, and they plan to enter the studio very soon. Stay tuned to Guitar Player and Bass Player in print and online for Bruce and Reid features, and for continuing coverage of their new supergroup, Spectrum Road.
Photo: Patrick Wong