With his exquisite approach, Robben Ford often proves that simplicity plus style and musicality wins every time, says Les Davidson.
Simplicity, musicality and pure style from Robben Ford. Les Davidson nails his sound.
Blending sophisticated and subtle note placement with a punchy tone and jazz influences, Robben Ford encapsulates a fresh take on American blues. Born in 1951 in Woodlake, California, Robben taught himself how to play guitar aged 13, having had his ears opened to the blues by Michael Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Electric Flag.
Alongside his two brothers, Mark and Patrick, the three siblings formed the Charles Ford Blues Band (named after their guitar toting father). Having cut their teeth playing the usual circuit of high school dances and clubs, Robben and Patrick took a step up to work with harmonica legend Charlie Musslewhite. Robben was subsequently hired by blues giant Jimmy Witherspoon followed by gigs with George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt, among many other level one artists – sealing his reputation as a top-notch session musician.
Alongside his stellar sideman career, Ford also established himself as an artist in his own right, forming The Yellowjackets in 1977, alongside Russell Ferrante (keyboards), Ricky Lawson (drums) and Jimmy Haslip (bass). He spent six years with the band before taking time out to tour with Miles Davis in 1986, and two periods with Sadao Watanabe after which he set up his ongoing outfit, the Blue Line. He came to many guitarists’ attention with his 1988 release, Talk To Your Daughter, which blended stunning blues-jazz guitar with an extraordinary rock tone and feel.
However, Ford’s willingness to dabble in other genres has seen his guitar style break blues boundaries and successfully encompass jazz, pop and rock. This, alongside his prolific output, has brought his music to a wider audience and he has enjoyed many highprofile gigs including as Larry Carlton’s special guest on his Live In Tokyo and other shows around the world. He has been nominated for five Grammys and continues to record and tour with a selection of different line-ups depending on his musical direction.
Your focus on the examples this month should be on making every note count; think less about the scales involved (although be aware of the harmony) and concentrate on note placement and tone.
ALONGSIDE A STELLAR SIDEMAN CAREER, FORD ALSO ESTABLISHED HIMSELF AS AN ARTIST IN HIS OWN RIGHT
Robben Ford with his 1960 Fender Tele
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