Temperament: Larry Carlton in Concert

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Larry Carlton: In Concert is an enjoyable Digital Video Disc (DVD) release of the California guitarist’s appearance, on October 11, 1984, on the legendary German TV show “Live at Ohn Filter.” Larry Carlton’s story could be one in a million, except that his career has become just that: very special. By the time of this performance, Carlton had already played in over 3000 studio sessions. In that sense, any new release of performances of two decades ago evokes a nostalgia that fascinates us.

Carlton flexed a huge musical muscle even then. The native of Torrance, California had already defined his clear, reverb-soaked sound within mainstream jazz but, at moments in this concert, he briefly morphs into the contrasting playing styles of contemporaries Carlos Santana and Steve Lukather.

The production of Larry Carlton: In Concert, at Studio 5 at SWR in Baden-Baden, Germany, represents the bulk of television production in the early 1980s. Cameras were huge and difficult to move gracefully and stages were cluttered with much bulkier gear than gets the job done now. Still, a sense of charm emerges from the ambition of the production: to highlight Carlton’s playing within the time constraints of television.

“There was no kind of music show that dealt with different styles of music like blues, funk, soul, fusion music, straight rock and roll...,” says “Live at Ohn Filter” producer Michael Au, “so I wanted to see that on TV.”

In this case, time constraint works against the music. The improvisational nature of jazz demands the kind of immersion that simply could not be achieved within the 60 minute window of this show. In fact, this Digital Video Disc runs just under 40 minutes. No song ranges beyond five and a half minutes and the last song, “’D’ Modal Thang,” is clipped by credits shown at the 90-second mark. Carlton and his five group members pace the set well to mask the brevity of the concert (including a wonderful rhythm section solo in “Rio Samba”). However, jazz lovers inevitably feel the pinch of the musical punctuation that lies within.

The personality of Carlton’s band members is both visually and musically striking. From the terminally bad posture of percussionist Michael Fisher to the punch and power of the drum-bass tandem of Rick Marotta and John Patitucci, this group grooves. Keyboards arrangements blend the classic beauty of the Fender Rhodes electric piano with the samplings of Korg technology at the time, as played by Terry Trotter and Brian Mann.

Larry Carlton would be even more legendary if pure passion were ever to hijack his clinical approach to playing. At moments, this concert lacks street sense, such as Carlton’s voicing of Cooper and West’s “I’m A Fool.” Later, in “I Gotta Right,” the 12-bar blues is not augmented by his delivery: “I gotta right to love my woman ‘cause she treats me like a king.” It comes across live as it might in a studio; the difference is that the imagination makes a much more vivid stage.

Although this DVD beautifully massages our need to memorize fusion guitar from the 1970s and early 80s, Larry Carlton: In Concert merely bookmarks a career of much greater scope. This is not bad TV, but it is badly dated. One truth remains: we like to watch our favourite musicians when they were young (or younger). This DVD serves that purpose very well.

Production Notes:

· Studio: Music Video Distributors

· Picture Format: 4:3.

· Sound Format: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo.

DVD Extras:

· Interview with the Producer

· Artist Biography

· “Ohn Filter” show catalogue

· Subtitles: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese

Web sites:

Music Video Distributors Web site:

Larry Carlton Web Site:

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