By Patte Purcell
Who’s that chill bass player? That’s Andrew Ford who plays with some of the top acts in the world! He toured with Chaka Khan including a performance at the White House. He toured with Gladys Knight. He toured with David Crosby and Graham Nash. These are just a few of the top artists he performed with: Al Jarreau, Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Robben Ford, George Duke, James Ingram, Israel Houghton, Dianne Reeves, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Lynne Fiddmont, Christopher Cross, Jerry Butler, Michael McDonald, David Pack, The Emotions, Phil Perry, The Stylistics, Brenda Russell, Larry Carlton, Oleta Adams, Jeffrey Osborne, Melissa Manchester, Jeff Lorber, Deniece Williams, Johnny Hammond, Greg Adams, Randy Crawford, Norman Brown, Boney James, Paul Brown, Kirk Whalum, Michael Paulo and many others.
I asked him at the beginning of our interview to give me his most memorable moment in the business and he shared several with me, but before we get to that here’s a little history.
Andrew was born in Gardena, California and planned to become a professional athlete. He picked up the bass guitar at age 14 and had a garage jam band, but nothing serious.
It wasn’t until he became a freshman in college and realized his sports dreams would not manifest that he decided to pick it up professionally. Just to make sure, he got a degree in business and education but he never got to use them as a career.
He was lucky enough to work with a new teacher who also happened to be a jazz musician. Reed Gratz used him for his bass playing even though he wasn’t proficient, and that’s how it began. He pushed Andrew to learn and get better.
Andrew always loved music and used to listen in his room to everyone from Jimi Hendrix to BB King. He loved different styles of music and so his career took off after the teacher took him under his wing. Also, there was a local Inland Empire group named Japer, led by percussionist Dio Saucedo that he played in. This is where he met many who went on to be stars in smooth jazz including Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and so many more.
He shared several of his favorite moments in his musical career. His first thought was the moment when he performed with Al Jarreau who was one of his very favorites. He said it was such an unbelievable experience to not only be working with one of his favorites but a host of other top musicians in the industry including drummer Steve Gadd, who is the drummer for Eric Clapton and Paul Simon.
Before he could complete that story he interjected with his absolute fairy tale experience. He performed with Whitney Houston live on HBO. He said he was so nervous that he could barely hold it together. The audience was filled with celebrities. He said that is the pinnacle of his career to date.
Another memorable serendipity moment for him was when he was on the tour bus with Davie Crosby and his band CPR. David was a friend of Robin Williams and decided to give him a call as they were passing through the area. He invited them over so the tour bus pulled up to Robin’s home. His wife and kids were there and Robin was (of course) warm, gracious and funny. Ford mused about how he went into an entire comedy routine just for them. He said it was like he couldn’t help himself. Normally, he doesn’t ask to have a picture taken with artists but he did have one taken with Robin.
Andrew is currently working on his first CD called Musik 4 the Soul, which will include original music influenced by his favorites like Stevie Wonder, Jobim, Tito Puente and George Benson. He hopes to broaden the jazz genre by creating something new. He’s creating a mixture of smooth jazz and R&B. Watch for it.
He’s also been working with Lynne Fiddmont on her CD and played all the parts on her last one, a nice stretch for him. He loves production and writing so coming out with his first CD is something he’s really looking forward to doing.
When I asked him what his goals are he told me that he has surpassed every goal he could ever think of and is very happy to be doing a CD of his own. It brings a new level to his career as a bass player, producer, arranger and educator. He has 5 bass instructional DVD’s covering blues, R&B, reggae, jazz and more, available through his website at www.andrewfordbass.com.
We’ve been lucky enough to bring Andrew to the desert for 2 Celebrity Jams and are planning to bring him back in the future.
“This is the challenge: not to rearrange the intentions of the composers, but to stay within the parameters of what the composers have in mind and be creative and imaginative and meaningful.” ~Joe Henderson