All that jazz: Warming up to Grammy awardee Larry Carlton

December 7th, 2010 - 11:09 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) Meet “Mr 335″, the man behind the popular thin-line, arched-top semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. American legend and three-time Grammy award winner Larry Carlton says jazz will continue to grow as long as it maintains its core roots.

“I think jazz will stay healthy and continue to grow as long as it maintains its core roots from the 1950s,” Carlton told IANS in an interview here.

“I was heavily influenced by the music of the 50s and 60s, rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry, Beatles. And suddenly I find I’m in a new generation of cool music. Jazz will need more influences to grow out of the past,” he said.

Carlton was in India for three days to perform in three cities, days after his album “Take Your Pick” with Japanese musician Tak Matsumoto was nominated for the 2011 Grammy Awards.

His forte is a fusion of blues and innovative jazz, laced with shades of pop. For Carlton, India is still a mystery though he has collaborated with Asian rock guitarist Matsumoto.

“This trip is so short. I can’t go out to listen to Indian music and talk to them. This is my first visit to India - three cities in three days. Next time, we have to schedule it differently,” Carlton told IANS after a concert here as part of the 100 Pipers Jazz Utsav.

He performed in Bangalore Dec 3 and enthralled music buffs in Mumbai Dec 4.

The guitarist said he “would love to collaborate with an Indian artist”. “If my strengths could meld with the strengths of an Indian artist’s strength, I could work with him.”

The 62-year-old Carlton has won three Grammy awards in his career of over 40 years and has 16 Grammy nominations. His album with Matsumoto has been nominated as the best pop instrumental album for the 2011 Grammy Awards.

“Someone telephoned me two days ago to tell me about the nomination. Two of the three Grammies I won earlier for ‘Minute by Minute’ with Micheal McDonald and for ‘So Substitutions: Live in Osaka’ with Steve Lukather were for the best pop instrumental albums. The one with Tak is of the same nature. We will have to win,” Carlton told IANS.

The other contenders in the category include “Kenny G., Robby Krieger, Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright”, Carlton said.

Known as “Mr 335″ for the model of the guitar he plays, he is credited with 3,000 concerts, 200 hit records and 100 gold albums.

He has played with jazz and blues legends like B.B. King, Les Paul, Robben Ford and Lee Ritenour.

Talking more about his Japanese collaboration, he said: “I have been playing in Japan since 1974. I have explored Japanese culture for many years. I have a great ability to unite melody and produce a record. Moreover, Tak is very focussed…I could relate to his attitude and professionalism.”

In 1968, Carlton recorded his first album, “With a Little Help From My Friends”.

Carlton’s love for music goes back to early childhood. “I started my guitar lessons when I was six. I was fascinated by a guitar in my grandmother’s home in Southern California at the age of four. My parents said I could play it when I was physically old enough. I began playing jazz at 14. I heard Joe Pass, Berney Kassel and John Coltrane (jazz musicians) on the radio - and something stirred in my head about the music. Before I was playing pop music,” Carlton said.

Memories crowd. Asked about his encounters with blues legend B.B. King, Carlton travels nearly seven years in time.

“It was his birthday (Sep 16) in Nashville. B.B. and I played together. Once in Canada, I was asked to host a half-an-hour show on television. I played some music for 15 minutes and B.B. King was my guest. I got to interview him. I played in Cancun festival with B.B. King and Carlos Santana. Carlos and I sat with B.B. in the evening…,” Carlton recalled with nostalgia.

For jazz guitar legend Les Paul’s birthday, Carlton was “asked to play at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York”. “I played happy birthday and then…I and Les played blues together,” Carlton said.

He said he is “releasing a new album “Larry Carlton Plays the Sound of Philadelphia” under his record label 335 Records in January 2011.

“It features 11 of R&B tracks by Gamble and Huff - one of the best R&B songwriters,” Carlton said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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