Larry Carlton may be the most esteemed musician you’ve never heard of. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he has been a sideman to superstars like Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, played on over 100 gold records and been a member of both Fourplay and The Crusaders.
Carlton, a four-time Grammy Award-winner, will be playing an intimate show at Hull’s City Hall on Monday, October 1, the only Yorkshire date on his brief UK tour.
One of the most famous artists Carlton is associated with is Joni Mitchell. He played five of her albums, including the critical smashes Court and Spark and Hejira. “Obviously, it was a great experience working with Joni Mitchell, mainly because of the strong songs she writes.”, begins Carlton.
“They’re so interesting, harmonically, that it wasn’t a typical pop date. The LA Express was a young band at the time, meaning we had not been together for a very long time, but we all knew each other from doing sessions over the years. We sound like a unit and playing on Joni’s tunes brought out a special side of us because of her unique songwriting abilities.”
Carlton is also famed for playing on four Steely Dan albums, beginning with 1975’s Katy Lied and ending in 1980 with Gaucho. Notorious for their studio perfectionism and an endless list of session musicians, evidence of Carlton’s talent is that Steely Dan invited him back to play, time and time again.
His guitar work on the Steely Dan track Kid Charlemagne was listed as one of the best guitar songs of all-time by Rolling Stone magazine. “Making music with Steely Dan was very rewarding for me.”, says Carlton. “I was a great match of their songs and their harmonies. I think I have two favourite Steely Dan recordings that I participated in; one, obviously, is Kid Charlemagne and the other is Third World Man. I think those two solos and those two contributions by me kind of stand out that I like listening to when I put on a Steely Dan album.”
Audiences can expect an evening of excellent finger work from Carlton’s back catalogue, which also includes many acclaimed solo albums. Yet, he has no plans to record a new LP any time soon. “I do not at this time, I just wait for motivation, musically, to do something different. Until then, I just continue to enjoy making the music from my past and sharing it with my audience.”
Supporting Carlton at Hull City Hall will be Hull trip-hop band The Broken Orchestra, who were formed by production duo Pat Dooner and Carl Conway-Davis in 2010.
“We both worked at the same studio and it was mainly a way of getting in to use the gear to learn some techniques that we weren’t au fait with,” explains Dooner. “Then it ended up becoming more of an experimental session, getting some ideas out and then we ended up making some music.”
That eventually resulted in an album, Shibui, which originally came out in Japan, then gained worldwide distribution via a Canadian label.
“The live thing always eluded us because we never quite found the right set-up until last year,” says Donner. “We were working with [guitarist] Tom Kay on his album and it seemed to fit really well working with him and [singer] Emily [Render] on what we were doing.”
In March the band, who are based in Hull, released an EP, called Blinded, on their own label, A Bridge Too Far Recordings. The followed it with a summer tour that saw them gigging in Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle as well as to a crowd of around 30,000 at the Humber Street Sesh in Hull.
Donner says the band remain open to working with other musicians but when it comes to songwriting they’re very much now working as a four-piece unit. “Although there might be tracks in the future where Emily doesn’t sing on it she still has a part in what we’re doing,” he says. “The process of writing has opened up to the four of us, where it was just me and Carl at one point.
“Having more people there opens up the influences and the ideas. When we first started the way we used to work – hence The Broken Orchestra name – was we used to get different musicians in at different times and just record loops of things.
“On the first album, for example, we had a few different guitarists, a few different bass players, so I guess it’s the same with Tom and Emily – they bring something different to us. It’s good, it’s more difficult to manage because you’ve got other people to think about now, whereas when it was me and Carl we’ve known each other for quite a while and we are very much in sync on a lot of things.
“It’s a bit like starting again with other people.”
They will follow the Hull City Hall gig with a single called Mutual at the end of October and another in February. The plan is then to release the second Broken Orchestra album in June 2019. “We’re already booking in dates [for next year] but we’re just going to see how we get on with that,” says Donner.
“The momentum we’ve got from the live stuff has been the push we need. Carl and I were quite focused on it but we were like ‘Where do we go? What do we do?’ Once we did the live stuff it was like ‘Yeah, that makes total sense’.”
Larry Carlton plays at Hull City Hall on October 1, with support from The Broken Orchestra.