"I'm back to 100 percent as far as playing goes. It took a few months, but I'm fully recovered," pop-jazz guitarist Larry Carlton reports by phone from Los Angeles. A year ago, however, there was question that this foremost of West Coast sessionmen would ever play up to par again. On April 6, 1988, while he was standing in the doorway of his home, two teen-agers ran toward him. One pulled a .357 Magnum and fired. Carlton was hit in the neck, paralyzing his left arm and damaging a vocal cord.
After surgery to replace a severed artery, Carlton didn't have enough strength to push down the strings on an acoustic guitar. It took months of pain and therapy to regenerate the nerves and redevelop the muscles in his injured arm. He's still working with a voice builder to strengthen his remaining vocal cord. He'd rebounded enough by December, however, to appear with Joni Mitchell, Michael McDonald and Stanley Jordan in a benefit concert for Helping Innocent People (HIP), an assistance program for crime victims which he and his manager started while he was recovering.
Since then, he's recorded "On Solid Ground," the album he wrote prior to the shooting. Along with his own compositions, there are renditions of Eric Clapton's classic "Layla" and Steely Dan's "Josie," a song on which Carlton appeared originally as backup guitarist. He's also put together a record of holiday songs for Christmas release and begun the major North American tour he intended to take a year ago. He comes to the Tralfamadore Jazz Institute for a pair of shows Wednesday night. Here, as at his other shows, he'll be raising funds for HIP.
"I'm using my regular guys -- Terry Trotter on keyboards and John Ferraro on drums," Carlton said. "My saxophonist, Kirk Waylon, is out supporting his own record, so I hired Arnold Wing, who played with Frank Zappa for seven years. It's going to be a thrill for me to work out again, to walk on stage and tell everybody thanks for their prayers." -- Dale Anderson