Larry Carlton’s latest album, Larry Carlton Plays the Sound of Philadelphia: A Tribute to Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, was recently reviewed by Vintage Guitar magazine. Check it out:
On this album, some of the most soulful songs in the history of pop music get lush melodic arrangements accompanied by a guitarist noted for his technical skill and soulful playing. But is it a good fit? The answer is “yes.” And while some may argue the song selection and arrangements here play it too safe, anyone familiar with later Wes Montgomery records could argue there is no better way!
The Spinners were a big part of the Sound of Philly, and theirs are three of the best cuts here. Carlton uses octaves and double-stops for the melody on “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love.” Vocals fill the chorus, while Carlton plays melodic fills and an on-the money solo. “I’ll Be Around” stands as a high point. The other Spinners tune, “Mighty Love,” gets the full 335 treatment on the melody with a big, fat sound that cuts like a knife through butter. Cuts like “Back Stabbers,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” feature Carlton covering the melodies, darting around chord changes, and lending the necessary soul.
Some won’t like the arrangements, the addition of voices, or the song choices on this set. But it’s difficult to question Carlton’s soulfulness and ability.
Guitar Player magazine released a list of the 50 Greatest Guitar Tones of All Time in their July issue, and Larry Carlton made the list, with his work on “Kid Charlemagne” noted as his signature tune. From the article:
Whereas many studio guitarists tend to stay in the background, Larry Carlton exerts his personality so strongly on this classic Steely Dan tune that he pretty much assumes co-star status. Plugging his tried-and-true tobacco sunburst Gibson ES-335 into a cranked Fender Princeton Reverb, Mr. 335 floored the guitar community with his touch, phrasing, and awesome tone. And, although his gear choices would shift to include Dumble and Boogie, this solo represents the Carlton tone. In the words of his disciple, Steve Lukather: “It’s all in his hands and heart, man!”
Words from the Master
“I have the claw thing happening down there on the strings when I play. It lets me know where I’m at, but I’d have better technique if I held my hand free of the strings.”
“I pick hard. In fact, I overplay the instrument. I’ve been squeezing a pick since I was six, and the pressure has curved by index finger. At this point, my hands have molded themselves to fit the guitar.”
“People often ask me, ‘How do I learn to hit the right notes when I solo?’ My advice is simple: Learn harmony. Once you know what notes go into a particular chord, you can base your lines around them, and you won’t get lost. The key to playing great melodies lies in understanding chords.”
Listen to “Kid Charlemagne”
Guitar Player magazine released a list of the 40 Most Influential Rock Solos Ever in their June issue, and Larry Carlton’s solo on “Kid Charlemagne” made the list! From the article:
Carlton was already a session legend known for his smooth-as-silk lines that were reminiscent of Wes, Pass, and Trane when he cut this Steely track. But when Mr. 335 combined a rock dude’s tone with a jazzer’s harmonic sensibilities, he created the standard by which every jazz rocker would be judged. Ask Steve Lukather, Robben Ford, or Mike Stern what impact this solo had on them. Alright then.
Congratulations & good luck with the Geneva New Morning 30th Anniversary Film Festival! I see it is featuring our 2006 club’s celebration show. I haven’t forgotten that it was in Tokyo that we first discussed and organized this celebration & I’d like to tell you & all my musicians friends & fans in Switzerland how much I & everyone at 335 Records were moved by the devastation that Japan has experienced further to the earthquake and tsunami. Our hearts go out to all the people affected by this terrible tragedy.
In April, Robert Williams announced that I would be donating five Gibson Custom Larry Carlton ES-335 guitars to help Japan. We are sending the guitars around the world to collect signatures from some big stars. One guitar has been shipped to the Blue Note Tokyo; another is in Toronto with the Durham Radio group ; another is headed to the Montreux Jazz Festival & another will reach the New Morning 30th Anniversary Film Festival in Geneva. The guitars will later be sold at auction after touring for 6 months, with all of the proceeds going to relief efforts.
We hope that you also will extend your hand in whatever way you can. Thanks!
The Larry Carlton Special on The Paul Leslie Hour:
Session guitarists are often the music world’s equivalent of baseball’s utility infielder—unheralded players whose talents are cloaked in anonymity. Ironically, however, such guitarists also tend to be supremely accomplished, possessing, as they do, the versatility and improvisational skills necessary to accommodate a wide range of styles. Some go on to make a name for themselves beyond session work, while others are content to maintain their roles as indispensable studio mavens. Larry is one player that represents both sides of that spectrum.
John Patten and John Kelman from All About Jazz have each covered the new album and their articles can be found at the following links:
John Kelman – http://tinyurl.com/5w2uatx
John Patten – http://tinyurl.com/6ywjvh2
Lee Mergner from JazzTimes has also wrote an article on the album which can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/6hpv4fa
Brian Soergel’s review at The Urban Music Scene can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/4mukp52
“Fresh on the heels of a Grammy award win for his collaboration with Tak Matsumoto, Take Your Pick, Larry Carlton doesn’t hesitate to answer why he chose to participate in a tribute album to the Sound of Philadelphia. “Every song was a great pop song,” says the guitarist. “Every song was a hit.” Carlton’s new album, Larry Carlton Plays the Sound of Philadelphia (335 Records) features the guitarist applying his distinctive string-bending to a set of material from the songbooks of Gamble & Huff and Thom Bell, who wrote a succession of hits for The Spinners, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The O’Jays and many other soul and R&B legends.”
Since 1963, the songwriting and producing team of Gamble and Huff has earned 175 gold and platinum records, defining an entire category of Black popular music known as “The Sound of Philadelphia.” They were inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995, and were awarded the prestigious Grammy Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1999. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Philadelphia International Records.
Larry Carlton and his legendary guitar skills are backed by some amazing musicians including Paul Shaffer-organ, Tony DeSare-piano, Tommy Byrnes-rhythm guitar, Christopher Jackson-bass, Bill LaBounty-vocals, Andrea Valentini-drums, Vic Stevens-percussion, Mark Douthit-sax, Darcy Hepner-baritone sax, Steve Guttman-trumpet, Nick Marchione-trumpet, Dave Kirkland-trombone, and Chris Komer-french horn. This line-up brings these timeless classics back to life with a new twist that will make this unique record a must have.
Larry Carlton and 335 Records are doing their part to assist Japanese recovery efforts after the recent earthquakes and tsunami. The guitar master has announced that he will donate five Gibson Custom Larry Carlton ES-335 guitars to help Japan.
Larry and the label are sending the guitars around the world to collect signatures from “some of the biggest stars.” The axes will later be sold at auction, with all of the proceeds going to relief efforts. Also, the guitarist and label have already donated thousands of items to benefit Japanese citizens.
Currently, Mr. 335 and his band are touring Japan on their Sounds of Philadelphia Tour 2011. Carlton and Co. will be playing in Tokyo through Tuesday, April 12. Carlton also recently announced a slew of European tour dates.
Larry Carlton European tour dates:
May 11 – Blue Note Milano – Milan, Italy
May 12 – Blue Note Milano – Milan, Italy
May 13 – Matosinhos Jazz Festival – Portugal
May 14 – Scala Ludwigsburg – Ludwigsburg, Germany
May 15 – International Guitar Festival Heinsberg – Germany
May 16 – Centralstation Halle EG – Darmstadt, Germany
May 18 – Metropool, Wemenstraat – Netherlands
May 19 – North City Jazz & Blues Festival – Kosovo, Serbia