Robben Ford & The Blue Line: Live At Yoshi’s ’96

Previously unheard recording of the inimitably individual guitarist on stage features burning blues and a Bill Evans cover

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Not many guitarists on the scene today can boast a career quite like Robben Ford’s. The blues-jazz virtuoso has toured and recorded as a sideman for such superstars as Miles Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and George Harrison. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has now released, via Repertoire Records, previously unheard recordings with his band The Blue Line from their 1996 live performance at Yoshi’s, CA. The concert showcases original material in addition to works by Bill Evans and Paul Butterfield.

The band always enjoyed the intimacy of a small venue like Yoshi’s and the opportunity it gave for the members to really open up. This live recording shows exactly that: the setlist is expansive with a variety of moods centred around a strong musical figure in Ford. 

The double-CD set includes covers such as Time Remembered and Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’ amongst a handful of originals from Ford. What amuses me the most is that despite the sheer brilliance of these musicians, there’s always room for a slip up. Put it Where You Want It suffers an introductory mishap before finding its tracks and featuring a majestic bass solo from Roscoe Beck.

Ford’s sound is one of those that’s totally recognisable; supposedly, Miles Davis even called him his favourite guitar player. Clear comparison can be made with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble but Ford concentrates on tone and groove as well as dexterity.

The Blue Line was always a special band for Ford. From my personal experience, complete chemistry within a group is rare to encounter but Ford and his companions seemed to find that spark rather easily. 

Discography
CD1: Philly Blues; Chevrolet; Star It Up; Good Thing; Moth To A Flame; Lovin’ Cup; Time Remembered; Bounce That (56.54)
CD2: Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’; Put It Where You Want It; Prison Of Love; Wes; Tired Of Talkin’; Another Corner (46.26)
Ford (elg, v); Bill Boublitz (org, p); Roscoe Beck (b); Tom Brechtlein (d). Live at Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA, April 1996.
Repertoire Records REPUK1402