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Vinnie Colaiuta/Robben Ford/Jimmy Haslip: Jing Chi

Robben Ford comes to fusion by way of the blues, which partially explains why Ford, Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Haslip’s Jing Chi (Tone Center) is easier on the ears than a lot of guitar-led fusion efforts. Ford walks a tasteful line between the two spheres: blues-bred phrasing without the blockheaded post-Vaughan blooze cliches and uncrowded, fusion-inspired runs across the fretboard. Then again, with the formidable Haslip on bass and the equally staggering Colaiuta on drums, the space between Ford’s notes is in extremely good hands. His playing on tunes like the nudgingly funky “Stan Key,” the airy “Tengoku” and the organ-cushioned “Man in the Ring” are a reminder that fewer notes is often better.

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