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Ford talks life on the road

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Celene Vargas
Arts Editor

Andrew Ford, electric bass instructor and music business professor, is set to release an EP called “Soul on the Latin Side” around February, after years of playing for other artists while also producing and composing.

The EP will have about five songs that mix soul music with Latin styles and feature guest musicians and vocalists.

“I was never interested in doing this before because I don’t like bass records where bass is the lead instrument. I hate them. I like songs. That’s what I write,” Ford said.

Ford has performed with artists like Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight and David Crosby.

“We’re really lucky to have somebody of his caliber, ability and everything as a musician be teaching (at the University),” said Michael Ryan, senior adjunct professor of music.

“Sometimes I put on a Spanish music show with flamingo dancers and I’ve had Andrew play for that. You give him the chart of music and he plays it beyond what you can expect.”

Ford has been playing bass since he was in high school after a friend suggested he pick it up. He took his brother’s guitar and removed the two high strings to use the four lower strings as a bass.

In high school, Ford had classmates who were musicians and later worked with artists like Daft Punk and Michael Jackson, he said.

Ford said his career in music came as a surprise to them because he was known as the athletic type for playing basketball and football.

“I wasn’t planning on going into music as a profession,” Ford said.

Ford was initially recruited to play football for Arizona State University, but said he lost the opportunity because he did not take his senior year seriously. He then decided to attend the University of La Verne when it was still known as La Verne College.

It was not until he met Professor of Music Reed Gratz that his musical ability grew.

“When I got to La Verne, (Gratz) helped me excel a lot faster. When you get around people who are so much better than you, it will really bring you along much faster. That’s your opportunity to grow. That’s what happened with me and Reed,” Ford said.

Ford said he and Gratz met because Gratz needed a bass player for a faculty concert. It was 1977 and Gratz was in his first year as a professor at the University of La Verne, and he did not yet know anyone who could play bass that was at the same musical caliber as him.

“He was kind of stuck with me,” Ford said.

He was 18 years old and that was his first performance. He stayed at La Verne for about a year before transferring to USC because he felt La Verne was too small.

“I was miserable during that time (at USC),” Ford said. “I really missed the small classes, the more friendly environment. It took me three years to figure out I needed to be back at La Verne.”

He returned for his last year and got his bachelor’s in business. He then took a year off before getting his master’s in education from La Verne as well.

“(We first performed) together sometime in the early ‘80s with Reed shortly after we started teaching,” said Adjunct Instructor of Percussion Bob Dominguez. “(Ford) is a very very fine bass player.”

His first tour did not come until 1987 for Khan’s album “CK” when he was 25 years old.

“My first tour was kind of nerve-wracking, we went to Europe,” Ford said.

“It was a long time to be gone because it was like eight weeks, and I was waiting on the birth of my second child. He was due after when the tour was supposed to be over, but he came early so I was not even able to witness his birth,” he said.

Ford had to learn how to balance being away for so long while also raising a family.

“That’s tricky because you’re gone so much that often times you might get back home from a tour and your kids are telling you, ‘Oh we don’t do it like that anymore, Dad,’” Ford said.

“It’s that kind of thing where they, understandably, move on with life. You’re gone for three, four weeks and then you’re home for a week maybe and you’re gone for two more weeks. It’s not an easy life.”

The tours Ford liked the best were the ones he did with Jarreau. Their first one was in 1993 and it was one of the few he got because he auditioned.

“The thing about bass players, a lot of times they’re in the background, they’re kind of supporting the whole group,” Ryan said.

“Without them you feel something kind of empty, but with them you feel like you’re being lifted up in the performance. (Ford) really knows what to do to make the ensemble sound great.”

Ford played with Jarreau for five years and even co-wrote the song “Flame,” which appears on Jarreau’s 2000 album “Tomorrow Today.”

Now, Ford is preparing to join Khan again, almost 20 years after his first tour, to perform with her on the Capital Jazz Super Cruise.

He also recently launched his website, where he has a blog and offers material for playing bass.

“I’m involved in so many facets of music that I would like to share that information,” Ford said.

His website is andrewfordbass.com.

Celene Vargas can be reached at celene.vargas@laverne.edu.

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