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Robben Ford: Pure

Doug Collette BY

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Robben Ford: Pure
It's only fitting guitarist Robben Ford assigns a closeup of his chosen instrument to the cover of Pure. His devotion to the axe is at least equal to, if not greater than, the ardor he elicits from fretboard fanatics. But then that's a deserved devotion as the man demonstrates in less than two minutes at the very outset of his first instrumental studio album since Tiger Walk ( Blue Thumb,1997): the one-time member of Tom Scott's L.A. Express and Miles Davis' band sounds equally fluent in a foray through strains of Indian music that give way to hard rock blues riffing and back again on the "(Prelude)." Yet even as he demonstrates his admirable technical skill, Ford's precise feel for the transitions simultaneously renders appropriate the name of this record.

The effortless touch with which Ford likewise unfurls the alternately gritty and singing lines during "White Rock Beer...8 cents" is only half the story of that cut. In their background riffing as much as their soloing, saxophonists Bill Evans and Jeff Coffin add insinuating horns to imbue earthy but elegant elements to the performance. It's a distinct contrast to the ethereal atmosphere emanating from the fretboarder's playing on "Balafon." but then Robben Ford properly assigns priorities on each cut here, individually and as part of the of nine tracks total.

Alternately grounded and airy, the diversity of material is as marked as the consistent quality of the audio on Pure. Testament to the former Yellowjacket's experience in the studio as well as the technical savvy of co-producer/musician Casey Wasner and mastering engineer Ted Wiggins, the depth and breadth of the sonics are almost akin to visual 3D, thereby making it easy to slip into rhapsody over the course of tracks like 'Milam Palmo." For the forty-some minutes duration of the LP, there is never a sense of self-indulgence or self-consciousness to distract from the music.

The placement of "Blues for Lonnie Johnson" at the home stretch is thus ideal (and not just because Robben Ford once led a band that played and recorded with Chicago blues icon Charlie Musselwhite). For all the familiarity within the twelve-bar structure of the song that imparts a sense of respite in a rapid progression of change(s), the comparative simplicity of the arrangement is as refreshing as the guitarist's pithy approach to his lead playing. And again, the breezy mood of "A Dragon's Tail," following immediately after, supplies a shift in tone that sounds only natural rather than forced. In virtually every respect, including his composition of all the material, the California native's instincts here are unerring.

Thus, the marketing of the album in so many configurations might only seem to at once detract and deviate from the concept within the name of this LP. Acoustic and electric textures mix with the percussion of Satnam Ramgotra's Indian tabla drums in the title tune, but the progression from such exotic strains to what sounds like nothing so much as pure pop in the form of "If You Want Me To" almost comes across as inevitable in this versatile exhibition of artistry, particularly when the casual flicking of acoustic (!) guitar becomes noticeable.

As such, it's the ideal finishing touch on a captivating listening experience. Most if not all music lovers, particularly guitar hero-worshipers, will no doubt want to begin the sequence all over again as soon as Robben Ford's guitar lines emphatically conclude the final instrumental dialogue of Pure.

Track Listing

Pure (Prelude); White Rock Beer…8 cents; Balafon; Milam Palmo; Go; Blues For Lonnie Johnson; A Dragon's Tail; Pure; If You Want Me To.

Personnel

Robben Ford: guitar; Jeff Coffin: saxophone; Russell Ferrante: keyboards; Bill Evans (saxophone): saxophone; Jimmy Malis: oud; Steve Mackey: bass; Anton Nesbitt: bass; Dave Row: bass; Casey Wasner: drums; Toss Panos: drums; Shannon Forest: drums; Patrick Ford: drums; Wes Little: percussion; Satnam Ramgotra: tablas.

Additional Instrumentation

Robben Ford: keyboards; Brian Allen, acoustic bass, bass;

Album information

Title: Pure | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Ear

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