John Wheatcroft looks at the style of a gui­tarist who’s as happy belt­ing out fu­sion, blues or rock licks as he is play­ing smooth, so­phis­ti­cated jazz.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Grammy-win­ning artist and com­poser Larry Carl­ton is a con­sum­mate gui­tarist who’s as happy play­ing rock licks as smooth jazz.

Larry Carl­ton is a multi-Grammy award win­ning gui­tarist and com­poser with a pedi­gree that’s se­cond to none. From the early 70s on, Larry has pro­duced a stag­ger­ing body of work, as a ses­sion player, band­leader in his own right and com­poser. High­lights from his ses­sion ca­reer in­clude stints with Steely Dan (check out Kid Charle­magne), Michael Jack­son, Christo­pher Cross and Billy Joel. At one stage Larry tot­ted up as many as 500 ses­sions a year.

Carl­ton has some­how found the time to re­lease many al­bums un­der his own name, hit­ting his stride in the late 70s-early 80s, pro­duc­ing a string of won­der­ful re­leases such as Larry Carl­ton (1979), Strikes Twice (1980), and Sleep­walk (1981). If this were not enough, his Grammy to­tal is four, in­clud­ing one for his per­for­mance on the theme to the clas­sic US cop show, Hill Street Blues. In re­cent years, Carl­ton has shown no signs of slow­ing down, with on­go­ing solo projects, plus col­lab­o­ra­tions with Steve Lukather, Robben Ford and oth­ers.

Larry’s genre-hop­ping style en­com­passes the best bits of BB King’s blues (watch King’s 1974 con­cert in Zaire closely and you’ll spot a young Carl­ton on rhythm gui­tar), the sin­glenote jazz prow­ess of Joe Pass, a healthy mea­sure of rhythm and blues and even sig­nif­i­cant coun­try in­flu­ences. His sound, touch and dy­nam­ics are highly cov­eted, and he’s a world-class im­pro­viser and a great sight-reader and com­poser too. Phew!

This month we have a se­lec­tion of choice Carl­ton licks. Learn each ex­am­ple with as much at­ten­tion to de­tail as pos­si­ble, nail­ing the notes along with the ex­pres­sive and dy­namic nu­ances that make up his play­ing. Go to the source and do some tran­scrib­ing your­self, en­sur­ing you re­ally pay at­ten­tion to all the sub­tle em­bel­lish­ments, grace notes, bends, swells and tim­bral ef­fects that are clearly ev­i­dent when­ever Carl­ton picks up his gui­tar. This at­ten­tion to de­tail is very of­ten found in stu­dio mu­si­cians, as their play­ing has come un­der close scru­tiny in iso­lated and highly-ex­posed set­tings. Lis­ten­ing to your play­ing with a pro­ducer’s mind­set can be ex­tremely re­veal­ing, as any dis­crep­ancy will stand out like a sore thumb. Scary as this might sound, it’s good for you to hear ex­actly what you re­ally sound like, warts and all, so why not record your ver­sion of your­self play­ing th­ese licks along with the back­ing track, and lis­ten back crit­i­cally but kindly. Take note of any fea­tures you like but aim to fix and im­prove those ar­eas that are less flat­ter­ing. As al­ways, have fun and en­joy.

I got turned on to Joe Pass at 14 and was very hun­gry for more of that vo­cab ulary

Larry Carl­ton

Larry Carl­ton: one of the in­stru­ment’s finest ex­po­nents

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