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Larry Carlton

Sapphire Blue

Format: CD   Release Date: 01/13/2004
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Larry Carlton may not have been issuing records in the United States with any regularity, but Sapphire Blue proves he hasn't been sitting on his hands, either. It's Carlton's first blues-oriented album in many years. Featuring a large band with a complete horn section, Reese Wynans on B-3, Matt Rollings on Rhodes piano, Terry McMillan on piano, and others, Carlton is in fine, even understated form here. This group plays like a band with a soloist at its center, not like a bunch of paid hacks backing up a guitar whiz. Witness the gorgeous horn charts by Jim Horn on "Friday Night Shuffle," and the triple melody line in "A Pair of Kings." The laid-back, jazzy blues feel of "Night Sweats," with a memorable groove and minimal horn punctuations, leaves Carlton's guitar room to jam inside a warm space. The title track is a B.B. King-style groover -- à la 1970 -- with a stinging, slightly distorted guitar sound from Carlton. This isn't the blues, it is blues, played soulfully and with considerable musicianship that forgoes flash for feeling, albeit muted by pristine production. Carlton's fans may puzzle over this one a bit because of its concentration on aesthetic beauty and relative purity, but those who weren't paying attention should sit up and take notice. [The China import features the bonus track "335."] ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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