Although he's become a leading figure in both jazz and blues guitar, Robben Ford's first instrument was saxophone. He switched to guitar at 14 and was fronting the Charles Ford Blues Band—named after his father—and supporting blues greats Charlie Musselwhite and Jimmy Witherspoon by age 18.

Photo by Mascha Thompson

The jazz and blues virtuoso changed his tone palette on the new all-instrumental album, Pure, stepping way from his legendary 100-watt Dumble. After 36 years playing the same rig, the transition was not easy.

"I consider it a real blessing having learned the guitar through the blues medium," says Robben Ford. "I then developed a great love for jazz and, in particular, the tenor saxophone. Those guys—or the guys that I like, I should say—are all very vocal players. They're singers. Miles Davis's trumpet as well is the most brilliant example of a trumpet player using his horn as a voice. It's very much related to speech. Sometimes you speak softly. Sometimes you just groove along. Sometimes you yell. You're always trying to say something as opposed to play something."

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