Larry Carlton/ Chuck Mangione October 13, 2006
Larry Carlton and Chuck Mangione at the Center: Nice and Smooth
By Glen Creason
When you think of Smooth Jazz you might think of hammocks, low flying sonics, lowered blood pressure and laying up like denizens of the boneless chicken ranch. Yet, on Friday night at the Cerritos Center two stars of the Wave wave accelerated the genre a bit and gave us a pretty nice three hours of music with flavor and somewhat elevated temperatures. The Flugelhorn’s poster boy, Chuck Mangione headlined the show but had to run to catch up to the fine, curtain-raising hour of pumped up Jazz-Pop that guitar maestro Larry Carlton dropped in the chair-dancing laps of another full house at the Center.
Mangione began his set with “…Feeling” and cruised easily through “Doing Everything” but began to get some wind beneath his sails by “Main Squeeze” which rocked the hall. Mangione was steady and strong with his horn but much of the elevations in the set’s range came from multi-faceted horn ace Chris Vadala who played flute plus soprano and tenor sax with genuine fire. Mangione’s sweet tribute to his Mom “Bella Via” was smooth but he broke again into more adventurous territory with the be-bopping “Dizzy Miles” highlighted by vocals from drummer Dave Tull. “Land of Make Believe” was wistful and truly smooth which lead into familiar but extremely well received Mangione hit-territory including both “Children of Sanchez” and his signature smooth groove “Feels So Good.” This is a show that is crisp and clean, moving at a decided pace broken only by Mangione’s pithy remarks and an occasional bow to the solo skills of an excellent ensemble behind the leader.
The show was opened by a fit and ready to rumble Larry Carlton who lulled the house a bit on his opening solo number, the intimate and introspective “LC.” However, he then threw it into high gear with the rocking “Qui Qui Si,” a sax-appealing “Roll With It” and “Blues Force” that showcased a really fine band lead by drummer Marcus Finne, keyboardist Greg Mathieson, son/bass player Travis Carlton and old favorite saxophone wiz Tom Scott. If you liked the sound of Steely Dan’s “Aja” then you would have liked this set. Carlton stood at the center and played some tasty guitar licks that would make young musicians drool, often with his hands just inches apart on the neck of the ax. “Minute by Minute” and “Smiles and Smiles to Go” kept up the heat until the pristine and lyrical “Sunrise” showed the connection the band had to the best connotations of smooth. This was not music for an herb tea afternoon and the strong band kept the energy at full-throttle for the most part. The only thing missing was a Michael McDonald vocal on “Minute…” A finishing kick of the funk-drenched “Prince” flavored by powerful bass from the kid, a stinging guitar journey on “Deep Into It” and a spicy “Slightly Dirty” once again showcasing the symbiotic relationship between Scott’s horn and Carlton’s guitar. Despite being the opening act, the big crowd demanded some more from Mr. Carlton and he indulged them with “Tenor” that left them quite satisfied.