Remembering Col. Bruce Hampton: Aquarium Rescue Unit – The Beginning, The Band, The Bruce


Col. Bruce Hampton unexpectedly died one year ago today after collapsing on stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta at the conclusion of an all-star concert celebrating the jam scene patriarch’s 70th birthday, which occurred the day prior. The beloved musician served as mentor and friend, as well as band mate, to many of the most talented and accomplished improvisational rock performers of the last several decades.

Hampton’s idiosyncratic approach to music “Time, Tone, Intention, Space and Vomit,” had a lasting effect on the musicians he interacted with right up to his final moments of life. Just look at who came out to The Fox last year to celebrate Bruce’s 70th — it was one player after another from Chuck Leavell to Brandon “Taz” Niederauer.

Because the likes of John Bell, Dave Schools, Duane Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Karl Denson, Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman, Jon Fishman, Rev. Jeff Mosier, Warren Haynes, Kevn Kinney, John Popper, Oliver Wood and others made the effort to be with Bruce to celebrate his 70th, all of those friends and graduates of the School Of Hampton also happened to be with him when this portion of his journey ended.

In the late-1980s and early-1990s, Col. Bruce was at the helm of the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Surrounded by a core of bassist Oteil Burbridge, drummer Jeff “Apt. Q258” Sipe and guitarist Jimmy Herring, the group was an essential contributor to the early jam scene. A 26th anniversary ARU tour with keyboardist Matt Slocum took place in 2015 and veteran rock photographer/filmmaker Andy Tennille prepared a three-part mini-documentary film about Hampton and the band. The three segments can be viewed here:

[The Beginning]

[The Band]

[The Bruce]

This additional clip directed by Michael T. Koepenick and produced by Guillotine Pictures also details the early stages of ARU. Former band members Rev. Jeff Mosier and Count M’Butu also appear along with Burbridge, Sipe, Herring and Hampton. Watch it below: