Larry Carlton Comes to Jazz Alley

Photo: Whitney Crabtree

Larry Carlton, fifty-nine years a professional guitarist, brings his expertise plus his great love for the Crusaders, and Steely Dan (see below) to Jazz Alley, October 28th through October 31st. He was kind enough to make some remarks over email.


Larry Carlton: The two horn players I’m lucky enough to have with me, are Mark Douthit playing tenor sax, Barry Green playing trombone. Both of these guys are top session players from Nashville and have been for the past thirty-plus years. They can both play any style of music, they both love jazz, and love to groove. Because of their time in the studio together, they blend automatically phrasing-wise, etc. They just get it. Which makes all of the Crusader tunes we’re playing, sound great.

Next let’s talk about drums. Gary Novak, many of you know Gary’s playing from his time with Chick Corea. He’s just a world-class player and his love of jazz makes it perfect for those of us who have the same experience.

Playing keyboards is Mark Stephens. Another veteran, always happy to have him in the band. He has relationships with some big big big acts that just continue to call him. Chaka Khan, Josh Groban, Diana Ross.

The bass player, I’m proud to say, is my son Travis Carlton. He’s just become a world-class musician, busy busy busy all the time. He was just in the studio five days in L.A., for a project that Joe Bonamassa is producing. He’s toured with, besides me, Robben Ford, everybody at the Baked Potato. I’m really proud of him, not just his musicianship, but he’s honestly just a wonderful man.

Photo by Whitney Crabtree.

I’m often asked what gear I’m using for my live shows. You might remember from the ’70s, I was playing my Gibson 335, through a Boogie amp. Then I transitioned, in the ’80s, to playing my 335 through a Dumble amp, a custom-made amplifier from out in Los Angeles. And some years ago I was doing a gig in Boulder, Colorado, and my Dumble, quit working. Just by chance, a gentleman named Brandon Montgomery, was there to see my show. He was, and is, a custom amp builder, he told me he could fix my Dumble because he had the schematics for it. He fixed it, but in the process he told me he could build an amp just like it. He calls it a Bludotone. And he did exactly that. Made an amp I’m completely happy with over a decade. My Dumbles were getting old and tired, and it was hard getting them worked on.

Guitar-wise, I’m known as Mr. 335, and my Gibson ES-335 has been a big part of my career. But I was approached by a guitar company called Sire, and they sent me a line of guitars designed to my specifications. And they were just killer quality. And the big thing is, for a lot of guys that want a quality instrument, it’s so expensive. Sire has come up with a guitar to my specs, for between six and seven hundred dollars each! I have not any any negative reviews of my guitar line, to be honest, from guys who have tried them and bought them.

Photo: Whitney Crabtree

A quick little story about my start with Steely Dan–they were doing the album Katy Lied, and up to that point I had not been called to play on their records, but I always enjoyed listening to them. I finally did get a call to overdub one song on Katy Lied. And it went really well, I played a couple of times through the tune. Donald Fagen said “We’ve tried a lot of guitar players, but you just nailed it in two takes.”

I was finished and I went outside and Walter Becker was out there. We got to talking, I just candidly asked him, “After all the great guitar players you’ve had, how is it that you’re now calling me?” He had a very honest and great answer. He said, “I’m not a Joan Baez fan, but I wanted to hear the guy who could make her sound that good.'” I had just arranged an album for Joan Baez called Diamonds and Rust.

I’m often asked to give advice to young up-and-coming players. Honestly, I just tell the guys, because this did work for me: Be honest about why you’re making your music. If you’re making it to try to make a lot of money, be honest about that and that’s your motivation, to get ahead. For me, I always just wanted to be a guitar player who played in smoky clubs, like my heroes, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, etc. So I think when there’s an honesty in your motivation, whatever it might be, that will come out in your music. What worked for me was just wanting to play guitar and make music.

So good luck to all you guys out there, wanting to make a living, or make music for a living. I wish you well, and enjoy the process.

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