Larry Carlton

Legendary Guitarist Larry Carlton took the stage under a full moon at the North Beach Bandshell a few minutes after 8pm. A light shower might have been the cause of the delay at the outdoor venue but the weather cooperated for the rest of the night.

The show began with an upbeat number that got the crowd moving and it was clear the band did not need time to warm up. They were in the groove right from the start. The sound was perfect at the outdoor venue, not too loud as it sometimes can be. Even though he was doing a few Steely Dan songs they were all instrumental versions along with many Crusaders and original numbers from his extensive catalog. Wonderful music for a breezy, cool night at the beach.

After a few tunes Carlton told the story of how in 86’ while driving his car the song “Minute by Minute” by the Doobie Brothers was on the radio and he thought it would make a great instrumental tune. He called Michael McDonald and asked if he could cover it. McDonald agreed and even played keyboards on the recording. That version went on to win a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Larry, now 73 years old, played with the same tasteful sensitivity that had him appearing on hundreds of artists albums as a session player since the 70’s. He hasn’t lost a step. “Mr. 335” as he’s called (named after the Gibson 335 model guitar he played for most of his career) was using his new signature model – a Sire Revolution H7 guitar that closely resembles his old Gibson. And his amplifier of choice is the rare Dumble Overdrive Special that he’s used for many years. Though, he’d probably sound great with any gear!

While introducing members of the band it was clear he was very proud to have them on his tour. Gary Novak on drums was a groove machine. Mark Douthit played the tenor sax and sounded incredible. On keyboards the amazing Mark Stevens. Supplying the jazzy vibe on trombone was Barry Greene. He informed the crowd that his son Travis Carlton, his regular Bassist, was on tour with drumming great Steve Gadd and couldn’t be there – a fact he seemed very proud of. He smiled and said that it was “kind of a big deal…” that Travis was in Gadd’s band. Bassist Andy Hess filled in and was more than capable supplying the groove and taking a masterful solo when needed. All of these musicians have amazing credentials and every member was able to stretch out during the songs. The tunes were played very much like jazz band would with instrumentalists improvising during the subsequent verses.

Personal favorites were their renditions of “Chain Reaction” and “Don’t Take Me Alive” by The Crusaders, “Minute by Minute” by the Doobie Brothers and by Steely Dan “Josie”. Larry shined on “Kid Charlemagne” playing the recorded solo note for note. He seemed to really have fun with that one.

For the encore he sent us into the night with the dreamy Santo and Johnny classic “Sleepwalk” that he covered on his album of the same name. Definitely mellow but a wonderful tune to be humming on the drive home.

This is supposed to be his “Farewell Tour” but as I’ve seen many times with different artists it just isn’t the case. And that’s a good thing. He did say “Until next time” at the end of the show so… maybe…?

I hope so. – Valerie Pierce

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