Larry Carlton: The leading guitarist of jazz-rock and smooth jazz

In the world of music, Larry Carlton is a household name. Throughout his long career as a guitarist, he has distinguished himself through his varied playing, which combines jazz-rock, smooth jazz and blues. He is recognized not only as one of the finest guitarists of the 20th century, but also for his incredible work and musical collaborations.

A youth filled with music

Born in Torrance, California, Larry Carlton grew up in a family where music was heard daily. He began playing guitar at the age of 8, after receiving an unexpected gift: an acoustic guitar that belonged to his father. He soon began practicing his honed playing techniques, thanks in no small part to an experienced self-taught guitarist – the father of his best friend – who became his mentor.

Launch of his professional career

By the age of 16, Larry Carlton was already a member of a professional band called “The Fencemen”. He was also teaching the band’s members the basics of music and music theory at the time. After high school, Larry Carlton moved to Los Angeles and joined the jazz program at the University of Southern California (USC). He soon began working as a sessionman and studio musician for a number of major artists. During his career, he has collaborated with the likes of Steely Dan, Natalie Cole, Sammy Hagar, Johnny Mathis and many others. He has also recorded soundtracks for films, including La Corde raide, Un bon trio and four others.

Larry Carlton biography:

Born in the United States, Larry Carlton began playing guitar at an early age and quickly developed a unique technique. He performed in local clubs in Los Angeles and joined several successful bands, including the Crusaders and Steely Dan. In 1977, Larry went solo, releasing four solo albums between 1978 and 1985. During the ’80s, he specialized in jazz-rock and smooth jazz, collaborating with artists such as Sergio Mendez, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones, Sheena Easton and many others.

Larry Carlton’s discography

Notable albums:

  • Sleepwalk: released in 1981, this album is considered one of Larry Carlton’s best. It includes tracks like “Rio Samba”, “Smiles and Smiles to Go” and “Sleepwalk”, which have remained popular for years.
  • Friends: released in 1983, this double album features collaborations with well-known artists such as David Foster, Lee Ritenour and Steve Lukather. Highlights include “Minami”, “Room 335” and “Kid Led Zeppelin”.
  • Last Nite: released in 1985, this classic album combines jazz-rock and blues influences. Highlights include “Last Nite”, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Big Trouble”.

Larry Carlton’s complete discography

  • With A Little Help 1968 Uni
  • Singing / Playing 1973 Blue Thumb
  • Larry Carlton 1978 Warner Bros. Records
  • MR.335 Live In Japan (Japanese import) 1977
  • Strikes Twice 1980 Warner Bros. Records
  • Sleepwalk 1982 Warner Bros. Records
  • Eight Times Up 1982 Warner Bros. Records
  • Friends 1983 MCA
  • Alone / But Never Alone 1985 MCA
  • Last Nite 1986 MCA
  • Discovery 1987 MCA
  • On Solid Ground 1989 MCA
  • Christmas At My House 1989 MCA
  • Collection 1990 GRP
  • The Best Of Mr.335 1992 Warner Bros. Records
  • Kid Gloves 1992 GRP
  • Renegade Gentleman GRP 1993
  • Larry & Lee 1995 GRP
  • The Gift 1996 GRP
  • Collection Vol.2 1997 GRP
  • Fingerprints 2000 Warner Bros. Records
  • No Substitution 2001 Favored Nations
  • Deep Into It 2001 Warner Bros. Records
  • Sapphire Blue 2003 JVC Music
  • The Very Best of Larry Carlton 2005 GRP
  • Firewire 2005 Bluebird
  • Live In Tokyo” (with Robben Ford) 2007 335 Records
  • The Jazz King 2007 Sony BMG Music Entertainment
  • The Jazz King 2008 Sony/BMG
  • Take your pick 2010 335 Records
  • Greatest Hits Rerecorded Vol.1 2010 335 Records
  • Larry Carlton Plays The Sound Of Philadelphia 2011 335 Records
  • The Paris Concert 2012 335 Records
  • Four Hands & A Heart, Vol.1 (Compilation) 2012 335 Records

Larry Carlton’s collaborations

Larry Carlton’s talent was recognized early in his career by a number of well-known artists. He has worked with groups such as The Crusaders, Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac. With these groups, he contributed to songs such as “Don’t Stop” (Fleetwood Mac) and “Deacon Blues” (Steely Dan). In the 1980s, he took part in numerous collaborative projects with pop and rock artists such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and Elton John. His contribution to the soundtrack of the film “Lethal Weapon” is also well known.

Notable contributions:

  1. “Turn Your Love Around” (George Benson): Appearing on the album Give Me the Night (1980), this track reached number 5 in the USA. Larry Carlton’s outstanding performance is one of the reasons this song is so popular.
  2. “The Thrill is Gone” (B.B. King): Appearing on the album Riding With the King (2000), this blues classic was reinvented by Larry Carlton and B.B. King. Larry Carlton’s improvisation is one of the highlights of this version.
  3. “Moonlight In Vermont” (John Pizzarelli): This song appears on the album Double Exposure (2006). It features Larry Carlton and jazzman John Pizzarelli. Larry Carlton’s performance on this track is remarkable and considered one of his finest moments.

Larry Carlton’s career today

Over the past 10 years, Larry Carlton has concentrated on creating instrumental music. His album “Fire Wire” was released in 2009 to good reviews. In 2011, he created “Luminous”, an album focused on smooth jazz. Since then, he has released several other instrumental albums and still tours the world.

Thanks to his long career and incredible body of work, Larry Carlton has made a lasting impression and inspired many musicians. His ability to blend jazz-rock, smooth jazz and blues has allowed his music to adapt to public tastes and endure over time.

Larry Carlton’s latest projects

Larry Carlton continues to indulge his passion for music and remains active on the music scene. In 2019, he took part in the annual Monterey Jazz Festival in California. More recently, he released a live album entitled On Solid Ground. The album, recorded with local musicians, features tracks such as “Don’t Give Up on Me Now” and “Room 335”. He also produced a collaborative album with Japanese guitarist Kazumi Watanabe.

Larry Carlton’s musical influences

Larry Carlton’s early musical influences reflect his African-American heritage. He has often mentioned guitarist Wes Montgomery and singer Nat King Cole as models who inspired him. But that’s not all. In his teens, he listened to a lot of rock and blues music, which influenced the unique playing style he would later invent. Later, he began to explore gypsy jazz and jazz fusion, adding an extra dimension to his music.

Larry Carlton’s music

Larry Carlton’s compositions are considered an excellent representation of jazz-rock and smooth jazz music. His pieces often feature catchy melodies coupled with dynamic, innovative playing. His album Every Nite is probably one of his most acclaimed. During the recording process, he called on such outstanding collaborators as David Grisman, Lee Ritenour and Robben Ford. Critics hailed the album for its intriguing improvisations and subtle arrangements.

Larry Carlton’s legacy

Larry Carlton has won numerous awards for his outstanding contribution to music. In 2004, he received the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the track “Last Nite” from the album No Substitutions Live at Montreux. He was also inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame. On a more personal level, he is actively involved in children’s awareness programs and charity campaigns to promote music.

Larry Carlton’s career is an enviable one. Endowed with impeccable playing technique, he stands out for his refined, creative approach to music. Over the course of his career, he has collaborated with renowned artists and produced several award-winning records. Together, they have demonstrated that it is possible to advance music across different genres and styles. With his contribution, he has helped create a bridge between music’s past and future, making music more accessible and enabling musicians to find their own way.

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