Guitarist Larry Carlton returned to his musical hometown after a long hiatus, and joyfully told the audience that it was time to “relive the Tuesday night jams at the Baked Potato” that he and the 70’s LA studio studs pioneered.
Unaccompanied, his rendition of the spiritual was deft, delicate and lyrically reverential. After another glorious aria, bassist Travis Carlton (one of the leader’s better musical productions) and drummer Gene Coye joined the stage to help create a soulful “West Coast” which featured Carlton’s patented use of space, time and clarity.
With the addition of tenor saxist Paule Cerra on loan from Joe Bonamassa, and longtime associate Greg Mathieson on the B3, Carlton hearkened back to his soulful days with the Crusaders with a sizzling take of “My Mama Told Me So” before upping the butanes for a Bunsen burner of a boogaloo on “Friday Night Shuffle” and a funkified “Oui Oui.” All throughout, Carlton’s solos were tastier than a freshly made Krispy Kreme, and just as sweet.
The stage rotated musicians as deftly as an Agatha Christie novel, as the teamed stripped back down to trio format for a Kind of Bluish “Walk With Me” as the guitarist created a misty mood with his strings. With the entire ensemble, Carlton joked that “it’s time to stop playing songs you’ve never heard before” and dipped into his smoother pop role. Yet even here, on pieces like the joyful “Minute By Minute” Carlton mixed sophisticated interludes with catchy phrases.
In tribute to the sadly departed friend Walter Becker, Carlton lead the band through an exquisite “Josie” before turning the theatre into a Memphis juke joint, as he picked his guitar like he was sitting in a Georgian back porch, and Cerra wailed on the tenor and shouted out with authenticity on a sweaty “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.”
As the band closed with the infectious “335” and encored with the aforementioned “Sleepwalk,” it was impossible not to observe that the entire evening all of the musicians were living out their song “Smiles and Smiles to Go.” Everyone, both on stage and in the audience, were having a wonderful time taking in music that was upbeat, uptempo and upward focused. What more do you want from LA’s finest?
Opening the evening was the clever duo of Gary Jibilian and Jay Setar. The former is a luthier who creates the NS/Stick, a combination guitar and bass, while Setar supplied a mix of creative and propulsive drum work. The songs like “The Absorbing Mirror” and “The Disappearing” mixed intricate King Crimson-like melodies and rhythms along with hints of Middle Eastern harmonies, while deep grooves on “Anti Gravity” and “Galaxy Rodeo” were both hard driving, metallic and yet still danceably accessible. Intriguing idea played out well.
Upcoming shows at The Saban/Canyon Club include Ottmar Liebert 09/09 Al DiMeola 09/15 & 17, George Thorogood 09/22, The Drifters 10/14 & 15 and Robben Ford & Stanley Jordan 10/21