June 22, 2024


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CD review: Larry Carlton & Paul Brown – Soul Searchin’ 2021: Video, CD cover

What do you get when two of the greatest creative musicians of our time join forces for a friendly fire no holds barred guitar showdown? You get Soul Searchin, an electrifying meeting of the minds that surpasses expectations and showcases unbridled joy and virtuosity.  Grammy-winning guitar extraordinaires Larry Carlton, who has played on over 100 Gold and Platinum albums and Paul Brown, who has scored 60 #1 radio hits, join forces for a set of ten thrilling originals on their first co-led album together.

Carlton, who was a member of the pioneering super-groups The Crusaders and Fourplay and who is a successful TV and Film scorer (including TV show themes “Hill Street Blues,” “Who’s The Boss” and film “Against All Odds”), first collaborated with Brown in the 90s when Brown produced tracks for his Finger Prints album. “Paul’s engineering and production speak for themselves but his guitar playing and creativity in writing is also very appealing to me,” says Carlton, a 19 time Grammy nominated and four-time Grammy winning artist.

Brown’s extensive credits include work as an engineer having engineered for R&B divas Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, among others. Brown confesses, “Larry and I had been toying with the idea of doing a CD together for a few years. I always thought our styles and sounds would be beautiful together. From a production, writing, arranging and playing point of view, this is as good as it gets for me.” Collectively between Carlton and Brown, the dynamic duo has collaborated with everyone from Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and Quincy Jones to George Benson, Patti Austin and Norman Brown, to name a few. The goal for Soul Searchin’ was simple. Paul Brown explains, “We hope it will be musical bliss and that you will allow it to take you on a ride and your mind and ears will be happy, happy, happy!”

“This is a marriage made in heaven,” states Danny Weiss, VP of Jazz A&R at Shanachie Entertainment.  “Larry Carlton has rightfully achieved legendary status as one of the world’s greatest guitarists, and Paul Brown, a great guitarist in his own right, is probably the finest contemporary jazz producer on the scene today.   The fact that they both share the same soulful, bluesy style makes listening to this album a truly tasty experience,”

The synergy between Larry Carlton and Paul Brown on Soul Searchin is impalpable. Their telepathic interplay, and joyful exchange create numerous moments to willingly get lost inside the music. Larry Carlton reveals their ingredient. “We have different musical backgrounds but, the common thread for Paul and I is that we both like melodic music with a great groove.” Joining Larry Carlton and Paul Brown on Soul Searchin are bassist and guitarist, Shane Theriot (who co-wrote many of the compositions), drummer Gorden Campbell, keyboardists León Besquera and Gregg Karukas, bassist Travis Carlton (Larry’s son), drummers Roberto Vally, Doug Belote and Gordon Campbell, trumpeter Ron King, saxophonist Greg Vail and percussionist Lenny Castro (Tower Of Power).  Soul Searchin’ was recorded this past year and afforded Carlton and Brown the opportunity to give the music their undivided attention.  Carlton shares, “The advantage of recording the album during the pandemic was that we both had more available time. Paul worked at his studio in Los Angeles and would send me tracks while I created at my studio in my home outside of Nashville.” Brown adds, “Honestly it probably would not have been possible in normal circumstances because both of us would have been too busy to get it done.” 

Soul Searchin’ opens with the mystical, cool and breezy “Miles And Miles To Go.” Taking divergent paths Carlton and Brown meet in the center lane crusin’ and soulfully trading choruses to beautiful effect. Paul Brown shares “More than any of the other songs on the album this tune shows off the difference in our sounds and styles and lets the both of us sing on the melodies with our guitars.” The dynamic duo roll up their sleeves and lay down a gritty but yet sweet and fun little groove on “Stomp.” It might hard to resist stomping your heels on this exhilarating and insatiable bluesy number. Carlton plays a Larry Carlton model SIRE H7 through his Bluedotone amp on all of the tracks while Paul Brown uses his arch top on most of the tracks. Brown’s heavy strings create a punchy sound while Carlton’s strings create a slinkier feel allowing him to bend his notes more easily.

Affectionately dubbed ‘Brother Paul Brown,’ Paul lays down a mean Hammond B3 on this track, which is also graced by the horns of trumpeter Ron King and saxophonist Greg Vail. “Gone Fishin’ is a good-get-together, feel-good anthem that is sure to rock any house. The snappy and pulsating swing of “Hip Pocket” is another winner and the funky “Aftershock” hits with a seismic force as Carlton and Brown pull out all the stops. Soul Seachin’ also features “Blue Skies,” which forecasts bright days and smooth sailing while the show-stopping “Keep Truckin’” is a special tribute as Paul Brown explains. “It is my homage to the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers and it really captures that southern rock vibe.” Carlton and Brown have a meeting of the minds on “Say What’s On Your Mind,” as the duo stretches out and struts their stuff illustrating why they are both at the top of their game.  The track also features Larry’s son and bassist Travis Carlton and Shane Theriot on keys. “Shelter” offers refuge from life’s rainstorm with an intimate down home performance from the duo featuring vocals from Brother Paul Brown.  The ethereal album title track is a gorgeous and pensive ballad, which Brown confides is inspired in part by Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

 The iconic and revered Grammy-winning guitarist Larry Carlton picked up his first guitar at the age of six but it was in high school upon hearing Gerald Wilson’s album Moment of Truth with guitarist Joe Pass, that he got his first introduction to jazz. It was not long before Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, B.B. King and John Coltrane changed his world. Celebrated for his lithe technique, sweet-toned, blues-inflected sound, and distinctive use of volume pedals, Carlton first came to prominence as a member of crossover jazz and R&B ensemble The Crusaders. In the 70s he remained busy with a who’s who list of collaborations from Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Michael Jackson to Quincy Jones, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.  Carlton made his debut as a leader in 1978 when he was signed to Warner Brothers and began a long stretch of releasing his own albums. A native of Torrence, California, he has been equally successful as a film and television scorer. By the 80s Carlton had amassed over 3000 studio sessions. In 1988, Carlton was the victim of a random gun violence crime that shattered his vocal cords and left him with severe nerve trauma. Through intensive therapy, a positive mind and sheer will, a courageous Carlton made a remarkable recovery proving to be as remarkable off the stage as he is on it. He founded the organization Helping Innocent People (HIP), a nonprofit group to aid victims of random gun violence.  Carlton, has recorded 34 albums as a leader including his last album Lights On with the WDR Big Band.

“Music is my spirituality and has been my entire life. Everyday I’m either writing, playing recording or performing and I’m still loving it,” confesses two-time Grammy winning guitarist, producer and vocalist Paul Brown. Born in Los Angeles to musician parents who sang with Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, among others, Brown started playing drums at age five and picked up his first guitar two years later. His influences are as far reaching as Wes Montgomery, Peter Gabriel and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Brown has been a foundational artist in Contemporary Jazz from since the late 80s. As accomplished as Brown is center stage as a guitarist he is equally revered for his Midas touch as a producer. The renaissance man has been first call for everybody from George Benson, Al Jarreau and Luther Vandross to Boney James, Kirk Whalum and Peter White among countless others. As a leader he has recorded ten albums and Soul Searchin’ make this his eleventh and his second recording for Shanachie. His first for the label was Love You Found Me in 2010.

01 Miles And Miles To Go 4:26
02 Stomp 4:11
03 Gone Fishin’ 4:43
04 Hip Pocket 4:07
05 After Shock 3:35
06 Blues Skies 4:23
07 Keep Truckin’ On 4:25
08 Say What’s On Your Mind 3:51
09 Shelter 3:04
10 Soul Searchin’ 4:15

Larry Carlton,

Paul Brown – guitar

Larry Carlton, Paul Brown - Soul Searchin' - Amazon.com Music

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