JAZZ REVIEWS : Carlton Keeps Promise to Rock at Greek

Larry Carlton laid it out right up front Friday night at the Greek Theatre.

“We’re back and we’re rockin’!” he shouted to an enthusiastic full house. And he was as good as his promise.

Working with a vigorous, new band, the 45-year-old guitarist largely passed over the melody-oriented jazz/blues that has characterized his work of the last decade in favor of some gutsy, high-decibel boogie rock.

If Carlton has any residual negative effects from the shooting that nearly took his life three years ago and--after he began to recover--threatened to paralyze his left arm, they were nowhere in evidence.


On one of the few revival numbers he played--his hit “Smiles and Smiles to Go"--he ripped off a series of rapid finger runs that were astonishingly articulate, even from a musician with Carlton’s reputation for turbo-powered technique.

More often, he was into hard- edged feedback style, interacting with harmonica player Terry McMillan and guest guitarist Joe Satriani in a string of devil-take-the-hindmost blues. Carlton not only held his own in the guitar wars with Satriani, but there were moments when he came close to blowing away the younger, highly regarded performer.

The English group Acoustic Alchemy opened the bill with a set of rapid-fire improvisations in a manner that is performed in considerably more energetic fashion by bands such as Strunz & Farah. Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons followed. On the verge of hitting the top of the contemporary jazz charts with their current album, the Ripps--augmented by a three-piece horn section--were a bit too precise, too concerned with duplicating their recorded sound, to generate much emotion. But the group has unquestionably been aided by Freeman’s increased presence as musical front man.