Guitarist Larry Carlton – who first picked up the instrument at the age of six and went on to become one of Los Angeles’ top session players before concentrating on his own material – is looking forward to touring Australia for the first time in almost a decade.
Essentially in the country to appear at Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Carlton, the winner of four Grammy awards will also be undertaking some club dates which will bring him to Perth’s Astor Theatre with his quartet on Wednesday 28 May.
We spoke over the telephone to Carlton at the tail end of a series of shows at Blue Note Tokyo in Japan with special guest guitarist, David T. Walker, which follows similar ventures with guitarists Steve Lukather of Toto and Robben Ford with whom he has worked with extensively over the last 20 years in various guises.
Carlton also releases instructional DVDs and has run his own record label, 335 Records, since 2007 which has seen the release of five albums including one with Ford and another with Grammy award-winning Japanese guitarist Takahiro ‘Tak’ Matsumoto.
“The label is successful for me as an artist because it means I can do any project I want to at any time with no obligations to anyone but myself in regards to artistic integrity,” Carlton says. “And I started doing the instructional DVDs about eight or so years ago. And it’s something I really enjoy as well as working with the TrueFire camp who put them together. They are such a wonderful team to work with and now have thousands of students and many, many great guitarists who work closely with them.”
During his period as a session player Carlton was very much in demand and would often be involved in some 500 recordings each year. As such, he appeared on albums by Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton and so many others. He is also well-known for knocking out the sizzling guitar solo on Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne which has come to be regarded as one of the very best. Carlton, who recalls doing it pretty much in one take, says that Steely Dan’s Donald Fegan and Walter Becker were meticulous in the studio and would go over and over a particular song for weeks until they felt they had it exactly right.
He also worked alongside saxophonist Tom Scott, pianist Joe Sample, drummer Max Bennett and bass player John Guerin on Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark album of 1972 which marked the first time she had recorded with a band.
The guitarist saw that session work was gradually drying up, however, and moved to Nashville some years ago.
“When I first moved there I pretty much let everyone know I didn’t go there lookin’ for work,” he laughs. “I mean, I’ll help out at benefit concerts and stuff but other than that I wasn’t there to find work.”
The veteran musician is also very active on Facebook at Larry Carlton 335.
“I enjoy the Facebook thing and while, obviously, I have a team working with me on it to make sure everything is current, I really enjoy putting some of my own personal stuff up there every two or three days,” Carlton says.
“And I’ve watched it grow because over the last few months it’s gone from 50,000 likes to being just under 100,000 right now. And that’s a lot of people I get to say hello to every few days. So I love it.”