Just about every guitar player or fan of mainstream jazz in the district filled Mohawk College’s McIntyre Theatre to see guitar legend Larry Carlton display his talent. The brilliant event was sponsored by The Steeltown Friends of Mohawk College Music. Tonight’s concert was the Friends’ 12th annual version of “let’s bring a jazz heavy to town and blow the roof off.” Past events have included saxophonist Tom Scott, Phil Nimmons with various bands, Sophia Perlman, Heather Bambrick, Diana Panton, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, and Kenny Wheeler to name a few. The Steeltown Friends organization has helped boost the profile of Mohawk College’s Applied Music program, and has also sponsored the Instrument For Every Child program in Hamilton schools.
Who to rave about first, the monsters or the master? The Mohawk Faculty Ensemble laid the foundation for the entire performance, keeping the groove intense and exciting when it was called for, and letting things relax when it mattered. Pat Collins on bass and Kevin Dempsey on drums, not ones to seek the spotlight, were omnipresent through their solid playing. Too bad Collins never got to take a solo. Grant Slater and Adrean Ferrugia worked well together, with Ferrugia working the Rhodes while Slater expanded the keyboard palette with his B3 and digitals. Loved it.
At times, Carlton would walk over to Slater and have a little soul chat while they were playing. Ferrugia’s enthusiasm and love for the moment was obvious, and a delight to watch and hear. Carlton had met all the musicians at an earlier reception and in that short time had established a friendly rapport which translated to the stage.
The Ensemble’s horn section consisted of Darcy Hepner, tenor sax, Terry Basom, alto sax, Rob Somerville, trombone, and Jason Logue, trumpet. They kept their lines and riffs welded together, with each man ready to take a solo. Hepner, not being shy, let ‘er wail several times much to everyone’s delight, including Carlton. He was matched in sizzle, if not soloing opportunity, by trumpeter Logue.
The horns further proved their mettle by hanging tightly together with Carlton on his rhythmically complex and intensely syncopated musical themes. Larry Carlton is known for his great writing and arranging abilities. He produces his own charts which are no walk in the park. As the consummate musician, Carlton is fluent in the written, theoretical and practical language of all jazz and popular music forms. Those four Grammys and nineteen Grammy award nominations are proof. A musical master came to town. Were you there?