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Larry Carlton Goes All  Blues on <i>Sapphire Blue</i> - 2004-02-25

Electric guitarist Larry Carlton has had a distinguished career in music. His resume includes a list of recordings with some of the best and brightest in pop, soul, jazz and country. Now, 55-year-old Carlton has gone all blues on his latest release, Sapphire Blue.

Having so many musical commitments and only so much time to fill them, it's no surprise that Larry Carlton had to put his dream of recording an all-blues album on hold. Larry admits it was just a matter of time. He recently signed with Bluebird Records, and was given complete control as producer, arranger and bandleader in the making of Sapphire Blue.

Larry Carlton discovered jazz and blues on the radio. He heard recordings by guitarists Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery and B.B. King. Saxophonist John Coltrane was also an influence on his music. Soon, Carlton was playing guitar in clubs and studios in and around the Los Angeles area. His earliest session work was with The Fifth Dimension and Andy Williams.

The 1970s were especially fruitful. He participated in hundreds of recording sessions, completed a five-year stint with The Crusaders, and released his first solo album for a major label. Some of his best guitar solos landed on albums by Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell and Quincy Jones.

The next two decades were equally productive. He won rave reviews for an all-acoustic album, as well as a live set called "Last Nite." In 1987, he took home his second of three Grammy Awards for his instrumental remake of Michael McDonald's "Minute By Minute." A member of the all-star jazz quartet Fourplay since 1997, Carlton finally found time in 2003 to work on his first-ever blues album.

Carlton recruited some of Nashville's most respected musicians for Sapphire Blue. Called the Sapphire Blues Band, they include bass player Michael Rhodes, keyboardist Matt Rollings, drummer Billy Kilson, and a four-piece horn section. The group performed publicly for the first time at The Iridium jazz club in New York City last December.