The Robben Ford Clinic -
Mixing Jazz Chords with Blues
I came across this video on YouTube:
Robben Ford giving a clinic to a surprisingly small (and diverse) group
of players. In this vid he talks about mixing "jazz chords" with
the blues. It's a great video; i mean Robben is just awesome and
to see him in this kindof context is always cool. But he says a
couple of things that are really hard to figure out.
At 01:10 he
"I started taking those chords [Mickey
Baker Jazz Chords] and using them within a blues context. ...cuz
i was playing with
Musselwhite when i was doing this, so we were playing straight-up
Chicago blues, right?"
No Robben; at that point you most
definitely *were not* playing Chicago Blues. Yea it swings like
that, but... come on.
Fast forward (or rewind) the video to
01:35 and listen to the chords he plays. They're certainly
awesome; i mean i love that style and everything. But then i have
to try and contrast that type of playing with what he himself says
in this video about over-playing and i just... i can't do it.
Robben is making the case that the guitar is/was primarily a rhythm
instrument. His first example uses the great
Green (Count Basie Orchestra).
Jim Hall quote
that Robben mentions:
"I sometimes have a fantasy that, if the tree of jazz were pruned
down far enough, we'd be left just with Freddie Green strumming away and
making you feel like playing and smiling."
Ford tells the crowd:
"Freddie was the guy who'd play only tonic, third, and seventh.
So, you knew it was a major chord and it was either a major seven or a
flat seven. Or it was a minor chord. In order to establish
that all you need is the tonic, and the third; major, or minor.
And then the seventh gives it that... it's either pretty or it's funky,
He talks about how in his sparse playing, Freddie Green
stayed out of the way of the rest of the band, which opened things up
for them. He tells the audience that they shouldn't be afraid
"to play almost nothing". Robben is clearly going out of
his way to tell them (us) that less is more and all of that.
Which is great, but... it makes no sense when the clinic starts out
with: "check out all these cool jazz chords you can use in a blues
The video is only 9 minutes long and
it's Robben Ford so it's completely worth watching (i've watched
it four times now). But it just seems like he didn't think this
(clinic) concept through enough - mixed messages.
I mean, if this
clinic is about NOT mixing "jazz chords" with the blues, then why show
us all the jazz chords? Kinda weird.