Review of Larry Carlton’s Latest Live Show

Larry Carlton just announced a new international tour starting in July. Check out this review for an idea of what you might get out of the experience of attending one of those shows!

Source: “Larry Carlton reaffirms his spot among guitar legends” – Dallas Morning News

One thing that sets apart superb musicians like Larry Carlton from the merely good ones: Even on an off night, they’re still on.

The jazz-rock guitar legend warned fans at the Granada Theater on Friday night not too expect too much. For starters, he hadn’t touched a guitar in three weeks, and he fretted over what might happen to his fingers. “Anyone have a Band-Aid?” he joked.

He was also playing for the first time with Tim Lefebvre, who was filling in for Travis Carlton, the guitarist’s son and usual bassist. But neither the new player nor the tender digits detracted from a show that reaffirmed Carlton’s status as one the best guitarists most people never heard of — even though they’ve probably heard his work.

Like Lee Ritenour — another Fourplay alum who performed in the area recently — Carlton started out as an L.A. studio cat playing on scores of records in ’70s and ’80s, including Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and the theme from Hill Street Blues. But he’s most revered for his work with Steely Dan: His tasty wailing on “Kid Charlemagne” inspired Rolling Stone to rank it as one of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.”

Sadly, Carlton skipped “Charlemagne” Friday, but he did play two other Steely Dan tunes: A superfast overhaul of “Peg,” and “Josie,” which he inexplicably introduced as “a song I hate to play.” Maybe so. But he performed it with supple gusto, bending notes and holding them until he’d arranged the perfect marriage of bebop and blues.

Carlton began the show alone, showing off a feathery touch on “Goodbye,” a ballad he dedicated to Les Paul. Staying in a mellow mood with a cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” he poured enough sweet soul into the tune you barely missed Teddy Pendergrass’ voice.

His quartet then joined him, and Carlton picked up the pace, slashing his way through jump blues and fiery fusion. Like Jeff Beck, he’s the rare guitarist who rocks hard without resorting to the clichés of hard rock.

He got subtle backing from keyboardist Dennis Hamm and drummer Gene Coye. And bass ace Lefebvre did an admirable job for his first night with the band, although he had trouble with the ’50s classic “Sleep Walk” after a fan shouted a request for it.

But the backing band was almost an afterthought in a show that was basically an extended 90-minute guitar solo. That might sound unappetizing to anyone but guitar fanatics. But in Carlton’s nimble hands, it was one really long guitar solo well worth hearing.

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