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All that jazz

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    Guitarist Larry Carlton and his trio will headline the the Manoa Jazz & Heritage Festival.
    Noel Okimoto will also perform.
    The TGIF cover of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for Friday, September 24, 2010.
    Also on the bill for the Manoa Jazz & Heritage Festival is Jeff Richman.

If you grew up listening to Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, you’ve heard the work of Larry Carlton.

Versatility is what guitarist Larry Carlton has banked his reputation on, whether it was earlier in his career as an ace studio musician who appeared on thousands of sessions during much of the 1970s, or as a cool and confident solo artist for more than two decades.

He and his trio will be headlining an evening outdoors on the University of Hawaii campus for the Manoa Jazz & Heritage Festival.

"This is year three of the festival," said UH Outreach College music programmer Tim Slaughter, "in our continuing effort to provide another venue for jazz on an ongoing basis. "


Where: Andrews Outdoor Theatre, University of Hawaii-Manoa

When: 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow

Cost: $15 to $35

Info: 956-8246 or

Also: The Larry Carlton Trio plays at 7:30 tonight at the Castle Theater, Maui Arts & Cultural Center (tickets $12 to $38, 808-242-7469 or, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the University of Hawaii-Hilo Performing Arts Center (tickets $12 to $30, 808-974-7310 or



WITH the help of musical advisers Bailey Matsuda of Kamehameha Schools, Pat Hennessey of Hawaii Pacific University and sound engineer Randy Bauske, tomorrow night’s lineup will also include the Punahou School Jazz Band, under the direction of Alec Briguglio, and a special group consisting of guest Los Angeles guitarist Jeff Richman with local luminaries Noel Okimoto, Bruce Hamada, Robert Shinoda and Vernon Sakata.

Matsuda’s prompting persuaded Carlton to join the bill, where he will appear with his regular backup : his son Travis on bass and 26-year-old Gene Coye on drums.

After working the trenches in L.A. (and averting near death after being shot in the throat by intruders in his home in 1988), the 62-year-old Carlton is a longtime resident of another music-driven city, Nashville, where he lives closer to his children and grandchildren.

We reached Carlton by phone last week, at home. He had just returned from playing Tokyo, and would soon be flying out West for his gigs in Hawaii, which also include dates on Maui and the Big Island (see info box).

"After I discontinued session work in 1977, I went on to do solo albums, some producing," he said. "Once my solo career was established, I can go anywhere for work on the road."

Winner of the Guitar Player Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, Carlton has also had his own record label since 2007, 335 Records, named after his signature Gibson ES-335. The label’s small but select catalog includes a live Tokyo date paired with another formidable ax man, Robben Ford and the Grammy-nominated "Greatest Hits Rerecorded, Volume One."

On "Greatest Hits Rerecorded," Carlton and company take on some of the guitarist’s more notable compositions, including "Smiles and Smiles to Go," "Hello Tomorrow" and "Room 335," whose first two chords deliberately echo the intro to "Peg," a song Carlton helped make famous for Steely Dan on their classic "Aja" album.

BESIDES his notable group work with the Crusaders, Fourplay and the Renegade Gentlemen, Carlton’s career-defining session work includes Joni Mitchell’s "Court and Spark" album, Donald Fagen’s "The Nightfly " and Steely Dan’s aforementioned "Aja" and "The Royal Scam."

It’s Carlton’s blistering soloing on the track "Kid Charlemagne" on the latter album that got it listed as number 80 of Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time — "(His) multi sectioned, cosmic-jazz lead in this cut may be the best of all," reads part of the description. "It’s so complex it’s a song in its own right."

And Carlton can be heard still soloing while the song fades at the end. "I remember breaking a string," he said. "I was jamming so hard. But it was very flattering to be recognized for that song. To be honest, of all of the sessions I did back in those days — upwards of 500 sessions a year for seven years — I never thought, ‘Boy, I nailed that solo.’ It was all a job to me.

"I’ve been blessed as a musician to be a very versatile guitar player. When I went into most sessions, I wouldn’t know what style of play the producers and artists wanted, so I used to carry around three or four different guitars before I settled on the 335, which I found covered most musical situations."

While it’s easy to hear Carlton’s command of the guitar in his phrasing and harmonics, would he say that he has a unique sound?

"No, I wouldn’t. I’m like a singer that can do anything, except I let my fingers do the talking in my own style."


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