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Boston Roundup: Larry Carlton, Brit Floyd, and Doyle Bramhall

Dave Dorkin By

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Larry Carlton
Bull Run
Shirley, MA
December 2, 2017

Larry Carlton came to play in a rare quintet setting at the Bull Run in the Boston Western suburbs. The band featured Carlton's son Travis on bass and drummer Gene Coye, both frequent collaborators, along with the noteworthy additions of Gregg Karukas on keyboards and Brandon Fields on tenor saxophone, both of whom are rarely on the road as sidemen these days.

Carlton opened his set with the shimmering harmony of his solo feature "The Lord's Prayer" as has been his custom for several years now and subsequently brought the band for an expansive take on Miles Davis' classic "Freddie Freeloader" which afforded Carlton and Brandon Fields in particular a great deal of room to cut loose. Fields has done so much recording in the studios that it's a rare pleasure to hear what he can do in a more relaxed environment with his post-bop chops and full range on the tenor.

The set included several Carlton features such as "Oui Oui Si," "Room 335" and an instrumental version of the Steely Dan classic "Josie" which reminds one just how significant Carlton was in creating the sound of the group and how natural he still sounds on the material which, unlike so much successful music in the rock age and beyond, still retains plenty of harmonic interest much like Larry Carlton himself.

Doyle Bramhall II
City Winery Boston
Boston, MA
November 21, 2017

Doyle Bramhall II's concert at the newly opened City Winery in Boston put on display many of the elements which make him such a valuable sideman to stars like Roger Waters and Eric Clapton: fiery tone, blues authenticity and a warm singing voice which could put his former employers to shame. But in addition, Bramhall's songwriting and overall presentation are highly developed and worthy of far greater exposure on their own merits.

It's rare enough to find a vocalist or a guitarist steeped in blues, soul, blues-rock and beyond but the combination of both in one individual is quite unique and, as mentioned, has made Bramhall very valuable as a sideman. However it is with his own band live that one gets a sense of Bramhall's range and artistry. Bramhall's "Mama Can't Help You" (recorded with noted drummer James Gadson) gets such a soulful treatment live that it feels instantly like a classic in the genre. Bramhall also featured two Beatles tunes in his set including "She Said She Said" which received a lengthy improvisational treatment.

In fact, one of the things which separates Bramhall from many others attempting to mine this terrain is that in addition to being able to compose memorable hooks, he stretches out considerably live and has a band able to interact with him in a more improvisational manner. Bramhall is clearly adept at Texas style blues but interested in much more than that; his show ranges from tighter songs punctuated by blues stylings to quasi-psychedelic freak-outs and jazz inflected harmony provided by keyboardist/guitarist Adam Minkoff, also known for his work with Dweezil Zappa among others.

City Winery, which has just opened their Boston location and has locations in several other cities in the US, is an intimate and acoustically well balanced environment in which to savor a performer whom most will have seen in arenas as a sideman and who deserves much more attention as a compelling solo artist in his own right.

Brit Floyd
Lynn Auditorium
Lynn, MA
November 12, 2017

Brit Floyd makes a strong case for quality progressive rock to be treated as a form of classic repertoire to be conserved through the ages. The band has a level of professionalism which is exceptional in every regard where Pink Floyd is concerned and which regards not only obvious aspects likely to be appreciated by general audiences but also those which a more 'musicianly' oriented public might find appealing such as well developed improvisational forays on sax, drums and guitar as well as an extended improvisational section built into the moving "Great Gig in the Sky" from the Dark Side of the Moon which is a tour de force for vocalist Angela Cervantes.

In an unusually comprehensive take on Pink Floyd which goes well beyond familiar catalog staples, Brit Floyd covers Pink Floyd from their early experimental years with Syd Barrett ("Astronomy Domine") to their Division Bell era ("Cluster One," "Coming Back to Life") and quite a bit in between including many of their most memorable pieces from Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.

It's easy to see why concert goers have found the band such an attractive concert proposition; the quality of the sound is crystalline and made for audiophiles, improvisation is subtly added to the mix and not a note was out of place all evening.

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