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Larry Carlton: Larry Carlton Collection Volume 2

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It's cool. It's upbeat. It's danceable. It's the much accomplished Larry Carlton's Collection Volume 2, gathering the cream from his releases The Gift, Kid Gloves, Discovery, On Solid Ground, Alone / But Never Alone, and Larry & Lee (that would be Ritenour).

Carlton is a superb guitarist. His phrasing is impeccable, his ear for melody sound. His competent brand of cool collected-ness is no doubt what attracted the ear of Steely Dan, who had Carlton in now and again to take care of the fretwork. One chief difference is that Steely Dan had a sound, a readily identifiable style. Carlton's playing is faultless, but these tracks seem to melt into one another without much to distinguish them.

Moreover, after listening to this disc I'm still not entirely sure what Larry Carlton has to say. I'm not sure who he is — despite his virtuoso chops, much of this music could have been made by any number of smooth jazzmen. Of course, that may be all Mr. Carlton is after. He is notably effective on "Honey Samba," touching on "The Gift," delicately precise on "Pure Delight," and charming on "Farm Jazz," which does sound a little different (in a chugging faux -hillbilly direction) from the rest of the fare.

Guest stars on this compilation include Kirk Whalum, who contributes some standard smooth-fusionary licks and a few memorable phrases, especially on "March of the Jazz Angels," which began by reminding me of the Seventies pop hit "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

Larry Carlton is a virtuoso, but is never flashy for its own sake. Amid the synthesizer gauze of these tracks he himself plays brilliantly, and is, of course, the major attraction.

Record Label: GRP Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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