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Larry Carlton: Sapphire Blue

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Fans of veteran guitarist Larry Carlton will be interested in his latest career move. Carlton's multifaceted guitar work has been evident after decades of sterling studio work in Los Angeles as well as many solo recordings which go back as far as 1968. He has been the guitarist of choice for many pop and rock performers including the Steely Dan group in the late 1970s. Recording and touring with the Crusaders during the early 1970s, he developed the famous blues style that he is so renowned for.

Following was a lengthy and successful series of recordings for Warner Brothers and later for GRP, which was interrupted for a devastating gunshot wound in his Burbank studio, followed by long hospitalization and rehabilitation. Carlton has been the recipient of several grammy awards and nominations and is also a part of the quartet Foreplay, the popular smooth jazz combo, since assuming Lee Ritenour's chair in 1998.

Those expecting a smooth jazz performance from Larry Carlton may be in for a surprise. The easiest way for me to describe this album is to compare it to the Max Weinberg Band (on the Conan O'Brien late night show) with the Vivino Brothers. Carlton's guitar is the centerpiece for this funky and sharply paced setting. A large part of the ambiance must go to B-3 organist Reese Wynan, who raises the funk level whenever he's playing. Jazz drummer Billy Kilson (on loan from Dave Holland's group) delivers a crisp time keeping function on drums. Recorded in Nashville and released last year in Japan and China, this is a brand new US release (minus the bonus track, "335," from the Japanese version).

"A Pair of Kings" starts out deceptively as a smooth-ish melody, but first the horns creep in, followed by a Wynan solo, and we're totally cooking. Mark Douthit gets some soulful "Kirk Whalum-type" tenor sax solos and the album closes with a poignant duet between Carlton and Nashville harmonica veteran Terry McMillan (along with bassist Rhodes). Jim Horn's punchy horn arrangements keep the toes tapping throughout.

As a first effort for a new label, Carlton will garner many new friends and admirers, especially those who may have typecast him for previous efforts. Stylistically, I can hear some prime-time B.B. King on some of these solos.


Track Listing: Friday Night Shuffle, A Pair of Kings, Night Sweats, Sapphire Blue, 7 For You, Strictly Dirty, Just an Excuse, Take Me Down.

Personnel: Larry Carlton,guitar; Michael Rhodes, bass; Matt Rollings, Fender Rhodes; Reese Wynan, B-3 organ; Terry McMillan,harmonica; Steve Patrick, trumpet; Chris Dunn,trombone; Mark Douthit,tenor sax; Jim Horn, baritone sax, horn arrangements; Billy Kilson,drums; Eric Darken,percussion.

Title: Sapphire Blue | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Bluebird


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