Ford's music heard all over world

Campus Times
November 7, 1997


by Rob Strauss
Editorial Assistant

The music of Al Jarreau once filled Andrew Ford's dorm room in Brandt Hall when he was a student at the University of La Verne. He never realized that 10 years later he would be Jarreau's bass player.

"I have played with some of my favorite singers," said Ford.

Ford, who received his bachelor's degree in 1982 and his master's degree in 1987, recently played with Whitney Houston for a live HBO special which aired Oct. 5. He got the job when a close friend of his, who is Houston's bass player and music director, decided to conduct the orchestra instead of playing. Ford describes Houston as being "very sweet" though he was not able to talk to her much, because she was very busy.

"I didn't say more than a couple sentences to her," said Ford.

Though he had played bass since he was 14, Ford's biggest interest in high school was sports and he wanted to go to a large university to play.

"I wound up not having as good a senior year as I expected," said Ford.

It turns out that Ford's first year at ULV was also the first year that music professor Reed Gratz taught at the school. Ford said Dr. Gratz was "desperate for people" to play in his jazz band so Ford decided to try it.

"Dr. Gratz was instrumental in me being serious about music," said Ford.

Dr. Gratz describes Ford as being "one of the nicest persons" he's met. According to Dr. Gratz, Ford had never seriously played an instrument before college. Despite this, Dr. Gratz said Ford had an inherent knowledge for music.

"He knew before he ever played an instrument what the sound was supposed to be," said Dr. Gratz.

Due to his interest in being at a larger school, Ford eventually transferred to USC for three years. He describes the time as being "miserable." As a result, he came back to ULV and got involved with Jazper, a jazz band that played in the Riverside area. According to Dr. Gratz, Jazper was filled with musicians who were doing the "big tours."

"Jazper was one of the better known popular jazz groups in the early '80s," said Dr. Gratz.

The opportunity with Jazper helped introduce Ford to other musicians, which helped him get auditions.

"The way it mostly happens is somebody you know refers you," said Ford.

Ford won out of over three other bass players to get the job with Jarreau, whom he has played with for 11 years off and on. Along with Jarreau, he has also played with such artists as Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan. These opportunities have given him the chance to play all over the world in places such as Australia and South Africa.

While he enjoys playing music, he does not like touring as much as he used to.

"It's become harder as the years have progressed," said Ford. "It's become more like a job."

One of the reasons that touring has become harder for Ford is because he now has a family which includes his wife, Ann, his 8-year-old son and his 10-year-old daughter.

"I'd enjoy it more if I was single," said Ford.

Ford does recall a memorable moment while touring with James Ingram in the early '90s. They were playing in the Philippines at the same time that Ingram's hit, "I Don't Have A Heart," was popular.

"I just remember us playing the first note," said Ford. "The crowd was so loud I couldn't hear anything but noise."

Along with bass, Ford also plays keyboards. He says he enjoys playing bass, though, because it is a "foundational instrument" and describes his character.

"I'm into being the anchor, the rock," said Ford.

He is also into being creative, which is one of his favorite things about playing music. According to Ford he also enjoys getting a reward for the creativity.

"Getting paid for that is just awesome," said Ford.