Robben Ford – Pure
Early on I was not a fan of cocktail jazz purveyor-guitarists. They had skills, were wonderful technical players but often the tone was too timid & easy listening for me. Tony Mottola & all that. Many indeed were excellent guitarists: Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Howard Roberts, Pat Martino, & Wes Montgomery – a few.
But I got older & found an LP by 5-time Grammy-nominee Robben Ford purely (no pun intended) by accident. The 1988 release “Talk To Your Daughter” had an exceptional song “Can’t Let Her Go,” with its blistering well-recorded guitar solo, vibrant drums, fiery harmonica & wonderful Ford vocals. This off-kilter arrangement was so original it was a re-education. Sometimes, it’s not the music that’s bad it’s just the timing. A more opportune moment gets that temporary ignorance wax out. This happened to me. Robben Ford was on my radar now.
Despite this CD’s no vocals Ford throws in spice: jazz, blues, funk/soul/fusion & rock. Always a sophisticated traditionalist in his approach but with this set Ford allows the music to take shape differently, more diverse. The title track “Pure,” has a dynamic guitar, percussion (almost akin to the Burundi drummers & work by Johnny Clegg & Juluka) — it’s tribal, atmospheric.
Ford’s resume is impeccable: Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jimmy Witherspoon, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, & Gregg Allman. His diversification as an artist — evident. This 9-cut all-original CD Pure (earMusic – Drops Aug 27) keeps it just that.
Mr. Ford plays all guitars/keyboards. The sharp snap of snare beats opens “Pure (Prelude)” –varied guitar shadings, a nice intro until the bluesy “White Rock Beer…8 cents” big shoulders its way in. It begs lyrics by Joni Mitchell.
The CD listed only Ford as the musician – but there are additives. There are some insane sax solos & flourishes & drums – yet no one is credited with these instruments. A hot display of jazz splashed with rock.
The recording has impeccable sound & reproduction. Ford doesn’t play his guitar as if he needs to lay down exceptional solos or doodle aimlessly along to fill time with notes. His tunes are structured with melody & some are quite memorable. “Go,” is more for the ear that savors funk/soul/fusion. Deep bass tones. This also includes brass — music that’s steady as an expensive sports car all over the road that takes interesting fast turns on musical curves with finesse. Miles Davis would’ve liked this musical excursion, & Jack Kerouac would’ve liked the literate groove.
“A Dragon’s Tail,” with its excellent guitar splashes & varied deep dramatic tones stab with searing notes. An exciting take. Different. The drum position doesn’t intrude on the guitars but it’s up devilishly upfront & solid. Not a bad tune on this CD.
B&W image courtesy: Mascha Muenzesheimer. The 40-minute CD was produced by Robben & Casey Wasner. Available @ Amazon + https://www.robbenford.com/