Legendary guitarist Larry Carlton is headed Down Under for his first ever solo Australian tour.
When I speak to four-time Grammy Award-winning jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, he’s calling from Tokyo, on the Japan leg of his current world tour. Touring has become second nature for this seasoned performer.
“I’ve got a good balance,” says Carlton. “Some years I’ll tour 100 days, some years I’ll tour 75 days – I get plenty of home time and I get plenty of time to go out and play for the audience.”
It won’t be long before Carlton brings the tour to Australia, playing venues across the country in May on only his second visit Down Under, after touring with Robben Ford in 2007.
“This time I hope to have a little less travel time and more time to at least experience the cities that I’m going to be in,” he says. “The last tour was pretty hectic, we really just flew in, did the concert, flew out the next day, did a concert.
“That’s pretty normal, we don’t get to see much when we’re working, so I’m hoping the schedule this time is a little better.”
Carlton was hugely successful as a session musician in the 70s and 80s, recording albums with Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand as well as creating television themes and film soundtracks.
“I was so busy in the 70s and early 80s,” says Carlton. “Obviously I enjoyed the Joni Mitchell records that we did together, The Royal Scam with Steely Dan, and Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly album is still one of my favourites to listen to.
“I think musically they hold up even after thirty years, they don’t sound dated, because they were so sophisticated for their time.”
Carlton says he never planned to strike out solo after his success working with other artists, but now relishes the control he has over creating his own music.
“The opportunity was just presented to me, I was really not looking to become a solo artist,” he says. “I was playing in the local jazz club in North Hollywood and a record executive came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to make a record?’ and that’s how it happened.
“Obviously when I’m doing a session for someone else, I’m there to please them. I’m a servant at that time. And then of course on my own projects I only answer to me.”
Nicknamed “Mr 335” in an interview in Japan after the guitar he uses most, a Gibson ES-335 (Carlton says versatility is something both he and the instrument have in common, making the moniker a good fit), the talented musician says playing with the Crusaders after growing up listening to their music is still one of the biggest highlights of his extensive career.
“I used to sit in my bedroom with my guitar and play along to their record,” he says. “I ended up doing 13 albums with them and that was a definite highlight for me in my early twenties.”
As for what Brisbane audiences can expect from his new show?
“A lot of guitar playing. That was a joke,” he adds with a laugh. “I’ll be playing songs that audiences are familiar with, from my catalogue, and some that they would never have heard because I haven’t been to Australia in a long time.”