An opportunity to study blues guitar with guitar great Robben Ford is rare indeed! If you want it, grab one of the few remaining spots at Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop & Festival in Bigfork, Montana, Aug. 25 to Sept 1. (Hurry, registration ends May 31.)
Jazz genius Pat Methney, prog-rocker Darryl Stuermer (Genesis, Phil Collins), session legend Lee Ritenour, classical maestro Scott Tennant and singer/songwriters Livingston Taylor and Mac McAnally are also slated to teach and perform as Artists-In-Residence.
“This year is another big step forward,” declares Crown Guitar chairman and contagious optimist David Feffer of the nonprofit event he founded in 2010. With these legendary players jetting in–plus faculty and students from around the world–Feffer’s cockeyed dream of establishing Bigfork MT as an international guitar Mecca has rapidly become reality.
Nabbing Robben Ford is a real coup. Ford’s soul is steeped in the blues he learned from his mentor, jump blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon. Ford also played in Charlie Musselwhite’s band early in his career. Although Ford’s playing is hugely diverse—he has recorded and toured with Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Raitt, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, George Harrison and John Scofield—Ford says that despite his dazzling jazz/fusion/rock chops he is a blues player to the core.
“The blues is a big house,” Ford says. “Everything I play fits in the blues. I think because it started with blues and grew from there. You hear a lot of variety in my music, yet there’s a continuity that runs through it–a thread–and that thread is the blues.”
Crown Guitar Workshop & Festival takes place at Flathead Lake Lodge, a homey-yet-exclusive dude ranch that’s hosted Bing Crosby, both Presidents Bush and gangster Bugsy Siegel. Family-style meals in the log cabin Main Lodge encourage friendly interaction between the Artists-In-Residence, faculty and students.
Each day starts with three-hour morning classes with a world-class faculty: Jody Fisher (jazz), Doug Smith (acoustic), Andrew Leonard (classical), Matt Smith (blues), James Hogan (intermediate blues), Tobias Hurwitz (rock), Susan Mazer (beginner) and Bret Boyer (singer/songwriter). Afternoons are devoted to intensive Artist-In-Residence clinics. Ford will work in small groups with blues and rock students. Metheny and Ritenour will work with the jazz students. Students can also squeeze in horseback rides and trips to nearby Glacier National Park.
After dinner on the banks of Flathead, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, everyone ambles over to a huge white tent near the horse paddock for the evening concert. As the sun slips behind the towering pines and rugged mountain ridges, each Artist-in-Residence will give a concert. Metheny says, “I will be bringing the 99>00 Trio with Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart for a special concert, and I really look forward to a great week in beautiful Montana.”
If previous years are any indication, the Artists-in-Residence will also jam with each other–giving attendees once-in-a-lifetime musical memories. Metheny, Ritenour and Ford onstage together? At Crown Guitar Fest, it could happen!
Ritenour adds: “If it’s up to me, I’ll be coming back for as many years as possible! This unique workshop not only features amazing teachers, guest artists and great performances, it combines learning with pure fun, surrounded by an extraordinary natural environment to explore. It propagates a truly harmonious, almost-Zen experience, and is one of the most worthwhile weeks spent exploring the guitar you’ll ever have.”
The real star of the week is the breathtaking scenery of Northwestern Montana, which the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation is helping to protect with donations to The Glacier National Park Fund and Montana Land Reliance. The Foundation also provides music scholarships, and supports Montana Public Radio and Public Broadcasting, North Valley Music School and Ravenwood Outdoor Learning Center.