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Pedigree of Cream set to rock Greensburg’s Palace Theatre

November 12, 2018

Cream’s lifespan may have been brief, but its impact is forever.

The power trio, considered by many as rock’s first “supergroup,” blended rock, blues, psychedelic rock and a taste of jazz to create its own signature sound in the 1960s that took it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and into the DNA of musicians since.

Like a bright, shining comet, that sound created by guitarist Eric Clapton, singer-bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker soared across the skies and left its indelible mark in our memories and psyche.

In live performances, they were a force to behold, with awe-inspiring improvisations that grew to extended jam sessions.

Paying tribute to the spirit of Cream, the sons and nephew of the trio, veteran musicians in their own right, are on a national tour celebrating the music and the 50th anniversary of Cream’s debut album.

The group headlines The Palace Theatre in Greensburg at 8 p.m. Oct. 26.

The lineup

Billed as “The Pedigree of Cream in a New Multi-Media Concert Experience,” it features:

• Guitarist Will Johns, Eric Clapton’s nephew and the son of Andy Johns, engineer for Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

• Drummer Kofi Baker, jazz-rock legend Ginger Baker’s son. Kofi Baker has played with his father, as well as Jack Bruce, Steve Marriott and Tom Jones, among others.

• Malcolm Bruce, son of the late Jack Bruce. As pianist, bassist, guitarist or engineer, Malcolm Bruce has shared studios with Little Richard and recorded and performed often with his father in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe.

He also recently toured with Joe Satriani.

Live interplay

The audience is invited to watch as the artists interplay live with their fathers and uncle on the big screen and witness classic moments in rock history brought back to life. They also will share personal insights and stories, complete with rare family footage and photographs.

“There’s nothing out there like this music. It is a unique body of work and it’s in our DNA,” Will Johns says. “We love to play it as much as the audiences love to hear it.”

There are timeless classics that everyone knows like “White Room,” “Crossroads” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” but when you listen to the other songs you realize very quickly how strong and memorable they all are, he adds.

A full repertoire

There is so much material from which to choose, he says, that it has been challenging to fit everything into a 2.5-hour performance. “This is our contemporary spin on a timeless body of work that flows through our veins. Like the original band, the set might run the same songs, but each song is different every night,” he explains.

“We give 110 percent every night because we want to do our legacy justice. And given the response from audiences to date, we must be doing something right.

“Interpreting a phenomenal body of work on our own terms and in our own way, that is a real honor. The challenge of performing this music varies from night to night, but we like to work real hard and we love it. It is, physically, pretty demanding, but the energy created and the feedback we are given from the audience keeps us going for 2.5 hours night after night after night!”

No attempt to mimic

He assures that he and his fellow musicians are not, “in any way, shape or form,” attempting to mimic the original trio. “We are not trying to re-create what they did. That would be an impossible task and silly, without a doubt,” he acknowledges.

Johns says he enjoys watching the audience, who has no idea what to expect, come along for the musical ride.

“What’s amazing is that they are with us, 100 percent, from the (start), even during ‘Toad,’ a drum solo of some 20 minutes in length, everyone remains with the band. Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

He says the band is seeing an increasing number of young players coming to the shows, be they guitarists, drummers or other instrumentalists.

“I think every young guitarist plays ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ at some point or another but maybe without realizing where or who the song came from,” he says. “Those coming to the shows often say that they have never before heard people play live music in the way that we do, with extended jams going into many different time signatures and genres across the musical ‘bar.’ ”

Advice to young players

He advises young musicians who want to learn from Cream to “take chances and, above all, master your instrument. Go where the positive energies flow and make the most of everything.

“Play for the love of it, and jam with as many players as you can to gain experience and have fun in the process,” he says.

“Cream fused so many different influences and genres of music that the body of work they created was totally unique and hasn’t been seen since,” Johns says. “They tested musical limits and showed the world what was possible. That is why there’s a legacy worth making some noise about.”

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