The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, and Rockledge Pinot Noir

Tonight, I’m featuring the music of two of my favorite guitarists whose styles compliment each other beautifully. Robben Ford blends blues and jazz. Although his first instrument was the saxophone, which he played into his twenties, he began teaching himself guitar at age thirteen after hearing the two guitarists from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. He toured with blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon and later with jazz saxophonist Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. He caught the attention of George Harrison who invited him to join him on his "Dark Horse" tour of the U.S. and Canada, raising his musical profile even further. He went on to tour with the Yellowjackets, Michael McDonald, and Miles Davis. After all that jazz, he returned to his roots, namely the blues, forming his group the Blue Line.

Larry Carlton, also known as Mr. 335, for the trademark Gibson ES335 that he often plays, has had an equally illustrious career. Interestingly, his early career included a stint as the musical director for an Emmy-nominated children’s show, Mrs. Alphabet, where he also performed as one of the characters, Larry Guitar. He performed and recorded extensively with the Jazz Crusaders and became one of L.A.’s most in-demand session players, backing stars from every imaginable genre, ranging from Sammy Davis, Jr., and Herb Alpert to Quincy Jones, Paul Anka, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia and Dolly Parton as well as playing many of the leads on the rock group Steeley Dan’s albums. He has more than 3000 studio sessions under his belt and by the early 1980s had picked up four Grammy nominations. In 1981, in collaboration with Mike Post, he won one for the theme to Hillstreet Blues.

While working on one of my favorite albums, Solid Ground, Larry was the victim of random gun violence, and was shot in the throat by gun-wielding juveniles outside Room 335, his private studio near Burbank, California. The bullet shattered his vocal cord and caused significant nerve trauma, but through intensive therapy and a positive frame of mind, Carlton completed work on Solid Ground in 1989. He bounced back stronger than ever forming the non-profit group, Helping Innnocent People (HIP), which aids victims of random gun violence and his guitar playing is as smooth and mello as ever.

The duo of Robben Ford and Larry Carlton blend blues and jazz at its best. So, kick back and enjoy some smooth blues.

With this smooth blues duo, I suggest a 2010 Rockledge Pinot Noir ($20.00). It’s a deep ruby color with a powerful nose of cherries, raspberries, and cinnamon. The palate reminds me of a French Burgundy, rich with a surprisingly long finish. It’s great for a summer evening tapping your feet and nodding your head in time to the smooth blues music of the Carlton-Ford duo. Enjoy!


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