Steely Dan session musician and former Crusaders member Larry Carlton brings another dose of fusion with his latest release, Fire Wire. The followup to his 2004 album Sapphire Blue includes a horn section named after that CD. The disc begins with an upbeat, hard edge that takes you worlds away from the smooth, complacent jazz guitar sound you might have expected from earlier recordings. With a style evoking Stevie Ray Vaughan's blues in "Double Cross, Carlton breaks free from the typical jazz guitarist mold. Unique, soulful, almost voice-like expressions flow from his strings. Both "Naked Truth and "Surrender, although it has a more prominent reggae bass line, recall forward-driven rock ballads such as Ween's "A Tear for Eddie or Frank Zappa's "Watermelon in Easter Hay. "Big Trouble invokes a heavier, grittier sound in conjunction with power chords, displaying Carlton's metal abilities.
The only downshifting occurs on "Goodbye, although drumming by Matt Chamberlain (Critters Buggin') keeps the song upbeat. The closet funk comes out in "Dirty Donna's House Party, which is equipped with all kinds of party goods. From Carlton's tone to Jeff Babko's organ and wah backdrop, the song emits a raging funk vibe. The Sapphire Blue Horn Section provides an energetic refrain that cuts right through the beat.
Heavy funk controls "The Prince, which perhaps exists as honor to the funky soul of the artist formerly known as. "Sunrise, another well-written tune, initially sounds like Carole King's "Jazz Man (as played by Yeardley Smith on The Simpsons). "Mean Street begins with a thick and mean bass line (played by Michael Rhodes), then Carlton digs deep, weaving a sultry melody over the layered, changing background.
Overall, the disc takes snippets from multiple genres and combines them to render something uniquely its own. The impeccable musicianship of everyone involved also takes this album up another notch.
1. Inkblot 11; 2. Double Cross; 3. Naked Truth; 4. Surrender; 5. Big Trouble; 6. Goodbye; 7. Dirty Donna's House Party; 8. The Prince; 9. Sunrise; 10. Mean Street
Larry Carlton: guitars; Matt Chamberlain: drums; Michael Rhodes: bass; Jeff Babko keyboards; The Sapphire Blue Horn Section: horns.
Featuring Mark Douthit: saxophone; Barry Green: trombone; Doug Moffet: baritone sax; Mike Haynes: trumpet.
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