Kid Gloves

Larry Carlton

GRP Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There are an awful lot of things you can do to a rock and roll beat... maybe even some that Kenneth Starr hasn't thought of yet. But -- oddly enough, when you think about it -- if there's one thing I can't do with rock and roll blasting away in the background, it's write.

I discovered the solution to this serious dilemma at some point in my second or third year of college, way back when heavy metal dinosaurs roamed the earth. I think it may have been the night I tried to turn out a last-minute political science paper to the tune of "You Shook Me All Night Long" -- no, wait, it's that damned Starr report scrambling my memory banks again.

In any case, the musical punchline to the story is that one of my roomies (not an AC/DC fan, clearly) turned me on to Larry Carlton.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Carlton, one of the most well-traveled and well-regarded session guitarists of the 70s, gradually moved from providing expert support for the likes of Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Quincy Jones to producing his own solo instrumental material, quickly progressing into that perilous no man's-land known as jazz-pop fusion. You could characterize jazz-pop fusion as music that makes jazz players ask where the jazz is, pop listeners ask where the singer is, and your average booking agent ask where the future is. A ticket to wide airplay and big sales, it generally ain't.

Carlton had one distinct advantage, though: he turned out to be one of the finest jazz-pop fusion guitarist/composers ever.

Kid Gloves in many ways sums up Carlton's long career, incorporating many of the thematic elements he has returned to again and again. There's jamming light jazz, featuring swinging/stinging by-play between electric guitar, keyboards and sax ("Oui Oui Si"); sweet acoustic verse-chorus pop (the title tune); grooving, soulful, George Bensonesque fusion ("The Preacher"); and extended, bluesy soloing ("Where Be Mosada?").

He also makes sure to throw in a cleverly arranged instrumental take on a classic pop song, "Just My Imagination," a worthy successor to his Grammy-winning instrumental take on the Doobie Brothers' "Minute by Minute." (Trivia Quiz time: Carlton also did a nice cover of "Layla" on his 1989 album On Solid Ground, and his other Grammy win was for co-writing the theme to Hill Street Blues with Mike Post.)

As always, the performers Carlton brings together to play with him on Kid Gloves are among the absolute class of the session world, from widely heard and highly melodic Nashville keyboardist Matt Rollings, to rock-solid rhythm section Abe Laboriel (bass) and John Ferraro (drums), to sax man supreme Kirk Whalum.

This album, like all the best of Carlton's 20-plus solo/collaborative fusion albums, is pure brain food, music you can work -- and yes, even write -- to and finish feeling refreshed. Of course, it makes nice background music for a romantic evening, too -- but that's YOUR business, not mine.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of GRP Records, and is used for informational purposes only.