This month, Les Davidson looks at the work of one of America’s top session and solo artists, the musicians’ musician: Larry Carlton.
Born in 1948 in California, Larry Eugene Carlton has – in his four-decade long career – carved a reputation for himself as one of the finest sessions musicians in America. Anyone new to Larry Carlton need only take a quick peek at this eye-popping list of big-name acts to get an idea of the impact he’s had on music across the genres since the late ‘60s. His discography is vast but here’s a sample: Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Christopher Cross, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr, Michael Jackson, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton. He’s also had a healthy solo career having released his first album, With A Little Help From My Friends, in 1968.
Larry got his first guitar when he was six years old. Part of the deal with his parents was to have lessons with a teacher who started to teach Larry how to read music, which was to become a big advantage for him in the years to come. Larry practised hard and attended the Long Beach State College. He says that in these formative years, both Joe Pass and BB King were a major influence.
Larry started playing clubs in and around LA and started to get jingle session work before moving up to be one of the first-call guitarists on the studio session scene. His career was put on hold temporarily in 1988 when he was shot in the throat near his home in Hollywood Hills. He suffered nerve damage, which meant he could barely play a note for six months. Nevertheless, his recovery since has been astounding and he has continued to garner accolades, multiple Grammy awards and build his reputation as a fine session and solo artist. You can still catch Larry on tour, sometimes alongside guitarists Robben Ford or Steve Lukather and to record both live and studio albums.
When playing these examples, note that Larry tends to use a mixture of chord tones, arpeggios and blues scales in his lines. All of these approaches are used here. Enjoy!
PeoPle ask me to describe how i Play and the most obvious answer is, i’m a jazz influenced guitar Player but not a jazz guitar Player Larry Carlton
NEXT MONTH Les puts down his 335 and picks up a Strat to emulate Stevie Ray Vaughan
Larry Carlton: known for his ES-335-fuelled jazz-blues-rock