Some of you will know Ford’s work, for some this may serve as an introduction. I had been planning to write about him and lo and behold he showed up at a couple of venues in the area. He has a long history of playing, much of it as a sideman. I’ll give you some history first then talk about the show…
Robben Ford is an ace guitarist from California who hit the scene back in the late ’60’s playing with his and his brothers’ band, the Charles Ford band. (Named for their father.) They were hired to play for blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite but it’s not clear whether or not they recorded together.
While Robben didn’t play a lot of straight Chicago-style blues the night I saw him, if you’re a blues lover you just gotta hear this jumpin’ tune from the early ’70’s by him and his brothers. It’s called “Gibson Street Shuffle.” That’s his brother Mark blowin’ the harp. The walking bass is guy named Stan Poplin who near as I can tell is still doing it on the West Coast.
Even though his first guitar hero was Mike Bloomfield, Robben is by no means only a bluesman. In fact, in the early ’70’s when fusion was king, he joined Tom Scott and the LA Express, replacing virtuoso guitarist Larry Carlton. That version of the band played on Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns and her live Miles of Aisles.
Just to give you some idea of Ford’s versatility, in 1982 he played his heaviest metal on a Kiss album called Creatures of the Night and then in 1986, he was recommended to play with Miles Davis. He was scared shitless. If you have five or so minutes, his Miles story is pretty entertaining to hear.
And just for fun here’s Robben playing with Miles’ band in, I think, Europe. Robben kicks in at around 2:50 and it’s smokin’ hot.
I saw Robben at a New Hampshire club called Tupelo Music Hall, same place where I recently saw Stanley Clarke and Al di Meola. This was a last-minute thing for me because I found out maybe one or two nights prior. I wound up sitting at a table with a bunch of Ford fanatics who were having a hell of a time. They apologized for their rowdiness (mild) but I thought they were pretty funny.
Interestingly. Robben didn’t do too much blues. His sound was jazzier and he actually does a fair amount of singing. I think he and the band stretched out on two long instrumentals and his style is very reminiscent of the type of playing on Steely Dan’s later albums. (As it happens, he never played on any of the Dan’s albums and his – and a lot of other players’ – solo didn’t make the cut on “Peg.”)
His playing is terrific – fluid, melodic and creative. I didn’t record anything that night so I’m digging stuff up on the Internet. This version of the band will have an album out in August. So we’ll go with this blues called “Good Times.”
Anyway, excellent show and if I have any (minor) complaint it could have been a little longer. I think they played for 75 minutes or so plus a couple songs for the encore. Andfor me, a little less singing and a little more playing.
The band is Robben Ford, Guitar & Vocals, Ryan Madora, Bass, Derrek Phillips, Drums, Casey Wasner, Guitar.
Robben Ford has received five Grammy Award nominations and was named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century” by Musician magazine. (Musician was a great magazine that was no bullshit, all music. A much better Rolling Stone than Rolling Stone has become. Bill Flanagan who does reviews for CBS’ Sunday Morning show was an editor there for ten years.)