It’s a shame that live albums don’t usually sell as well as their studio counterparts. Otherwise, the double-CD Live at Yoshi’s, recorded in 1996 by singing guitarist Robben Ford & the Blue Line (with keyboardist Bill Boublitz, bassist Roscoe Beck, and drummer Tom Brechtlein), likely wouldn’t have sat in the vault for a quarter-century before former manager Dal Booth discovered it.
Ford has traversed jazz, blues, rock, and funk since starting his session career in the late ’60s, and he showcases such dexterity early on in the disc. “Philly Blues” and “Start It Up” are shuffling blues numbers that feature impressive solos, both separate and traded, between the guitarist and Boublitz on Hammond organ. Interspersed are the chestnut “Chevrolet” and “Good Thing,” both sporting funk arrangements that show off Ford’s underrated vocals, Boublitz’s piano prowess, and the rock-steadiness of the rhythm section.
“Moth to a Flame” and “Lovin’ Cup” blend it all together near Disc 1’s end, with Brechtlein’s meter shifts, Beck’s foundational lines and effects, and torrid soloing by Ford. The drummer gets a lengthy, unaccompanied break on the percolating “Bounce That,” and the ballad “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’” spotlights Ford’s crooning vocals and stinging fretwork.
If anything, the Blue Line was a jazz band that primarily played blues—Ford became more of a roots-music artist through the ’90s—and Live at Yoshi’s leans slightly heavy on predictable shuffle feels. But the jazzy late numbers “Wes” and “Another Corner” offer the guitarist’s Wes Montgomery-inspired chording and soloing, plus the volume swells and creativity that made Ford a breakout star with Tom Scott & the L.A. Express and Yellowjackets more than 40 years ago.