Okay, I admit. I’m a bit biased. But how can anyone, with a straight face, say any guitarist is making more, or better music than Robben Ford?
I won’t list the stuff he’s worked on in the past five years, but if you include all of his band and studio material, along with his great solo albums, it’s an amazing body of work.
Basically, he’s what we’d all like to be – a player who gets into various musical situations he likes and just plays his heart out. Plus, it also helps to have his chops.
Jing Chi, for those of you not familiar, is a fusion trio, featuring Ford, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. The trio put out a studio album last year that was just wonderful.
Here they add keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz and on one cut saxophonist Marc Russo. The nice thing about this setting for Robben is the chance to stretch out. And, he does. And in doing so, he again shows how original and imaginative he is. Whether it’s plain old-fashioned fusion, mixed with a little blues(“That Road”), rock-based fusion that brings Cream to mind(“The Hong Kong Incident”), jazzy-blues(“Blues MD”), or spacey rock with a nice vocal(“Going Nowhere”), Robben shows why he’s one of the best, not just today, but in the modern history of guitar.
There are two vocal cuts mixed in with the six instrumentals. Robben handles the vocals on both. One of them is the aforementioned “Going Nowhere.” The other is the very cool, funky rock cover of Bob Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound.” It’s pretty straight-ahead with a monster solo from Ford.
As you’d expect, all of the playing great. Haslip is as steady a bassist as you’ll find for this kind of stuff. Nothing fancy, but just a monster at giving the songs a huge base to be built upon. Same goes for Colaiuta. Just a marvelous player. Ruiz also proves to be a fine addition. In fact, his interplay with Ford gives the record some of its finest moments.
This one’s a must for fans of Robben, or just great guitar playing. It almost becomes an embarrassment of riches after awhile. He is, in my humble opinion, as good as there is working out there today.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.