Robben Ford brings a musical weekend to Park City
Guitarist will offer concerts and clinic
Grammy Award-nominated guitarist Robben Ford has come a long way from his early days in the late 1960s playing for Charlie Musselwhite.
He has worked with music luminaries such as Joni Mitchell, Kiss and the late Miles Davis and George Harrison, to name a few.
Starting on Thursday, Feb. 23, Ford, backed by bassist Brian Allen and drummer Wes Little, will play a three-night stand at the Egyptian Theatre, and he promises high-energy nights of music.
“There will be things from across my career,” Ford said during a phone interview from his home in Southern California. “I’ll go all the way back, even to the first record.
“While some pieces have left the playbook, there are certain things that are great improvisational vehicles,” he said. “Because of that, those songs hang around because they give us some great opportunities to play. We have a few gems we keep in our pockets for those times.”
These days Ford, whom Musician Magazine named one of the “100 greatest guitarist of the 20th century,” is more focused on the song rather than a flashy guitar solo.
“Now, that’s only a part of the reason why we get out and play,” he said. “I really like writing songs and I’m proud to present songs that are really good. I moved toward that more and more over the years.”
Ford discovered the guitar when he was a teen after hearing the Chicago Blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s first few albums.
“It was an integrated band, featuring both black and white musicians, and by the second record they were already going into adventurous improvisations,” Ford said. “I always feel I can trace everything I do today to those first records, because they were high-energy blues. And that put it all together for me.”
Ford was struck by how the musicians’ experimental works created new genres.
“I’m a great lover of jazz and when you take the harmonic knowledge you hear in jazz and apply that to the blues, it was the perfect combination for me,” he said. “So, I didn’t exactly have clear idea, but I knew what turned me on and applied myself accordingly.”
Still, when people ask Ford what he plays, he’ll say, “Bues and rhythm and blues.”
“But we rock, play jazz and add a variety of elements in the music that aren’t just blues and rhythm and blues,” he said. “It just depends on the situation.”
The term Ford doesn’t like is “fusion.”
“People use that to describe pop, rock, jazz and blues together,” he said. “But in reality, some music can’t be categorized
“If I listen to early Miles Davis, I’ll call it jazz, but if I listen to late Miles Davis and the stuff I played when I was with him, the music had gone beyond category,” he said. “But there seems to be a bit of a place for categorization. If you talk about B.B. King or John Lee Hooker, you talk about the blues.”
In addition to the concerts at the Egyptian Theatre, Ford will host a guitar clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Sun Peak Clubhouse, 1950 Bear Hollow Drive.
The cost is $250. For information and registration, visit http://www.robbenford.com.
“I don’t do clinics in cities that I visit that often,” he said. “Clinics were originally something I did [in California] where I live because it kept me off the road. And I could make some money without having to drive all over the United States or fly to Europe.”
After doing a few, Ford found he enjoyed clinics.
“So I do offer it from time to time in places where there seems to be interest,” he said.
The Park City clinic is based on the one Ford does in his hometown.
“It pretty much takes up the whole day,” he said. “So, we’re doing something similar there in Park City. It’s a slightly condensed version of the clinic, but I’ll cover all the bases.”
Those bases include learning chords, examining his approach to improvisation and discussing songwriting.
“Even though I wrote when I was young, the songs were largely instrumental music,” Ford said. “Once I started writing songs with lyrics, it became a passion and I threw myself into it. I love talking about it and like to open the door to songwriting for others.”
Songs have become the main focus of Ford’s music these days.
“Back in the 1960s, bands would get on stage and play standards that everyone knew, but it wasn’t about the songs. It was about the style,” he said. “The main reward in my career now is about having good songs to play and getting a good performance from a song is satisfying for me.”
Grammy Award-nominated blues guitarist Robben Ford will perform at 8 p.m. from Thursday, Feb. 23, to Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $23 to $35. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $29 to $45. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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