@ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club
19 March 2016
Click an image to enlarge.
Larry Carlton’s own musical story began in Southern California.
He picked up his first guitar when he was only six years old. He
was introduced to jazz in junior high school after hearing The Gerald
Wilson Big Band album, Moment of Truth, with guitarist Joe Pass.
Larry then became interested in Barney Kessel, Wes Montgornery and
the legendary blues guitarist B.B. King. Saxophonist John Coltrane
was also a major influence on Carlton, beginning with Coltrane’s
1962 classic “Ballads.”
In 1968 he recorded his first LP, “With A Little Help From
My Friends” (Uni). The enthusiastic industry response garnered
him a place among jingle singers “The Going Thing,”
recording on camera and radio commercials for Ford. Mid-season in
his second year, he segued to Musical Director for Mrs. Alphabet,
an Emmy-nominated children’s show on the same network. It
was here that Carlton showcased his acting skills, performing as
the show’s co-star, ‘Larry Guitar.’
Calls began to increase significantly as Carlton gained distinction
for the unmistakable and often imitated ‘sweet’ sound
he delivered with his Gibson ES-335. He also broke new ground with
his new trademark volume pedal technique, eloquently displayed in
his featured performance on ¬“Crusader One” with
legendary jazz/rock group The Crusaders in 1971. Joni Mitchell’s
“Court and Spark” album, the first record she made with
a rhythm section, displays his distinctive Technique – a style
Mitchell referred to as “fly fishing.”
During his tenure with The Crusaders (through 1976), Carlton performed
on 13 of their albums, often contributing material. In 1973, Carlton
released his second solo project, “SinginglPlaying,”
on Blue Thumb Records ¬ aptly titled, as he not only played
guitar, but also performed vocals on eight tracks. Carlton’s
demand as a session player was now at its zenith, he was constantly
featured with stars from every imaginable genre, ranging from Sammy
Davis, Jr., and Herb Alpert to Quincy Jones, Paul Anka, Michael
Jackson, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia and Dolly Parton. At the same
time, he was still performing more than 50 dates a year with The
Before he transitioned completely to a solo career, Carlton became
one of the most in-demand studio musicians of the past three decades.
Carlton’s catalogue of work includes film soundtracks, television
themes and work on more than 100 gold albums.
Ultimately, Carlton began scaling back his session work substantially,
while continuing to perform and record with the Crusaders. He shifted
his emphasis to the challenges of arranging and producing, and built
his own studio-Room 335-in his home. During this period he arranged
and produced projects for Barbra Streisand, Joan Baez and Larry
Gatlin, as well as producing and co-writing the theme for the hit
sitcom ‘Who’s The Boss’ and co-writing (with Michel
Columbier) and arranging the acclaimed movie soundtrack for Against
As his association with the Crusaders began to draw to a close,
Carlton signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1977. Between ’78
and ’84, Larry recorded solo albums for Warner Bros. Records.
The album “Larry Carlton.” was released hot on the heels
of his debut session with rock supergroup Steely Dan. Rolling Stone
magazine lists Carlton’s tasty ascent on Steely Dan’s
“Kid Charlemagne” as one of the three best guitar licks
in rock music.
With more than 3000 studio sessions under his belt by the early
1980s, Carlton had picked up four Grammy nominations. In addition
to winning a Grammy (`81) for the theme to ‘Hill Street Blues’
(a collaboration with Mike Post), he also was voted NARAS’s
‘Most Valuable Player’ for three consecutive years.
NARAS then named him ‘Player Emeritus’ and retired him
In 1985 he was approached by the newly formed MCA Master Series
to consider doing an acoustic jazz album. His first release for
the new label was “Alone, But Never Alone,” a consensus
No. 1 album on the Radio & Records and Billboard Jazz charts.
The twelve months of 1987 brought some of the biggest highlights
in Carlton’s solo career. In addition to winning the Grammy
for “Minute by Minute,” Carlton received a Grammy nomination
for ‘Best Jazz Fusion Performance’ for his live album
“Last Nite.” Coming off of the success of two acoustic
albums and one live album, Carlton was on a hot streak and entered
the studio to work on his next project, On Solid Ground. The all-electric
project was nominated for a Grammy in 1989. The release of “On
Solid Ground” came almost one year after Carlton was brutally
shot in a random act of violence outside his Los Angeles studio.
In 1990, MCA acquired GRP Records and placed their jazz artists
under the GRP moniker. Immediately, GRP issued a greatest hits package
of Carlton’s work on MCA, called Collection. In 1991, Carlton
entered the studio to record a blues-based album with John Ferraro,
keyboard man Matt Rollings, bassist Michael Rhodes and harmonica
player Terry McMillan. Interrupted by label and consumer demands
for another jazz offering, Carlton temporarily shelved what would
become “Renegade Gentlemen” and recorded and released
Kid Gloves in ’92. A pop-oriented Jazz collection of lilting
acoustic ballads and biting electric workouts, the album marked
the first time Carlton had included both acoustic and electric tracks
on a single solo project.
In between touring, Carlton resumed work on the bluesy “Renegade
Gentlemen.” Taking the original six tracks to Nashville (his
first time to record in that city), and joining up once again with
Michael Rhodes and Terry McMillan, plus drummer Chris Layton (from
Stevie Vaughan’s band Double Trouble) and keyboard wizard
Chuck Leavell, he recorded four tracks, plus did additional production
and mixing on the blues rocker in time for a ’93 release.
Carlton toured extensively that year and the next with jazz superband
Stanley Clark And Friends (Stanley Clark, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham,
Deron Johnson and Najee). The quintet released “Stanley Clark
and Friends Live At The Greek” in ’94.
Larry & Lee, Carlton’s 1995 collaboration with guitar
great Lee Ritenour, garnered him his eighth Grammy nomination. This
was followed by “The Gift” in ’96 and “Larry
Carlton Collection Volume 2” in ’97. That same year,
his virtuosity and reputation secured him a place in the crum¬topping
award-winning Warner Bros. Records’ group Fourplay, when member
Lee Ritenour left to head his own label. Carlton doubled the fun
by signing to Wamer Jazz as a solo artist at the same time. 1999
brought Larry Carlton his very own spot on Hollywood’s prestigious
Rockwalk. On June 3, he was inducted along with Joe Satriani, Steve
Vai and Jimmie Vaughn.