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Guitar virtuoso makes Sacramento stop on tour
Robben Ford concert set for Saturday at Sacramento City College
Robben Ford Band
TIME: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, doors open at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Sacramento City College Performing Arts Center, 3835 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento
When blues guitarist virtuoso Robben Ford rolls into town Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, you can bet he'll offer up some tunes from his new 10-song album, "Bringing It Back Home" on the Mascot Label. Ford observes that his latest effort is very different from what he usually records, a fresh pastiche of sound rooted in favorite traditions but orchestrated in his own vision.
"Typically, I write a bunch of songs and make a record," Ford explained. "When I pick up my guitar, I just play earthy blues that I've always loved in combination with sophisticated harmony beyond standard 12 bars. Jazz creeps in."
Of course, the jazz creeps in. The 61-year-old Ford's musical track record boast stints with Miles Davis and Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. Those are Ford's guitar licks on Joni Mitchell's "Miles of Aisles." A five-time Grammy nominee, Ford's expansive blues style has paired him with George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Gregg Allman and more.
Allan Toussaint's "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky" and "Trick Bag" by Earl King add a New Orleans flavor to the album, while Willie West's "Fair Child" injects an R&B influence.
For "Back Home," Ford "looked at sources outside my library, asked friends to send me things. I listened to some blues compilations. That's where I found 'Birds Nest,' originally done by Charlie Patten, but changed the key to make it feel natural to me," he explained.
Ford gathered a "crazy good band" with organist Larry Goldings, drummer Harvey Mason and David Piltch on an upright, non-electric bass.
"Steve Baxter is the extra 'voice' on trombone," Ford noted. "I wanted the album to have a rich sound and color, like you were in the same room with the musicians."
"I played the Stanford Jazz Festival, and this kid from Stanford picked me up from the airport," Ford recalled, "playing gospel music in the car, very funky, done on inexpensive gear in churches and revivals," Ford said.
"The first song was an old gospel and I don't know who the artist is, but I really liked it. The kid asked me if I wanted the CD," and now "On That Morning" is the only instrumental on Ford's new album.
Ford wrote "Oh Virginia," something "different for me, that sounds like a Civil War ballad."
"'Traveler's Waltz' is a three/four time ballad. My wife, Anne Kerry Ford, wrote a poem about my life on the road. I was working with Michael McDonald and asked him, 'What do you think of this?' He started humming and playing, coming up with chords, then asked, 'Where'd you get this?' She nailed it on the head," Ford said with admiration.
Ford was born into music. He grew up in Ukiah, listening to his dad, Charles, sing and play guitar. His mom, Kathryn, played piano and sang, too. At 10, he picked up the sax, but switched to the guitar at 13 when he heard Michael Bloomfield play guitar in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
"Something just clicked and resonated with me," Ford revealed. "I wanted to play like him — I wanted to be him. Before I knew what I was doing, I'd cling to my guitar when I was overwhelmed for a sense of security, a way to express myself. It was my raft of life in the sea."
When Ford's not in the studio, he's busy with the Robben Ford Guitar Dojo streaming online micro lessons, each about one specific aspect of guitar playing. He's also partnered with True Fire Revolution to offer a larger blues guitar instruction program.
In the meantime, Ford is on the road, relishing playing tunes from his new album. "I couldn't deny this record is more spiritual than any other I've done — a cut of nature, a life of twists and turns," he said.
"It turned out to be so full of joy to make — natural sounding, something that flows like water."