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It's all about the guitars

It's all about the guitars

Guitarists Larry Carlton, Dick Shun Ng, Toronzo Cannon to play the Capital Region
It's all about the guitars
Grammy-award winning guitarist Larry Carlton will be performing at Caffe Lena on Thursday, August 16.
Photographer: Photo provided

If trombones are the essential New Orleans instrument – sorry I didn’t get to Trombone Shorty at Bethel Woods last Saturday; can’t tell you about it – and if this is the summer of accordions at Music Haven (more on that below) – this is a week of guitars.

Larry Carlton leads his jazz Quartet tonight at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). In studios and onstage, Mr. 335 (for his Gibson ES 335 hollow-body) has crafted soft-spoken agile riffs for Joni Mitchell (on “Court and Spark,” her first album with a band), Steely Dan (the towering solo in “Kid Charlemagne”) and dozens of other singer-songwriters and bands while also playing with the Crusaders and Fourplay. First inspired by Joe Pass and (especially!) Wes Montgomery, Carlton pushes inviting melodies and chords with a bouncy rhythmic attack developed in the funky Crusaders. He’s bounced back after a late-’80s near-fatal shooting and won four Pop Instrumental Grammys while recording a lot but touring seldom. 6:30 and 9:15 p.m. $120 (5:30 p.m. meet and greet reception), $65 advance, $75 door, $50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Harmonica wizard Magic Dick played here often with the J. Geils Band (’65-’85 plus reunions) and Bluestime (’92-’02) and more recently teamed up with Chicago finger-style acoustic-blues guitarist Shun Ng. The Magic Dick Shun Ng duo plays Friday at Caffe Lena, rocking raucous J. Geils classics or exploring quieter fare. 8 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children

British crime writer Ann Cleeves says, “I can’t imagine how I’d come up with ideas if I didn’t use public transport,” overhearing bus and train conversations. Bluesman Toronzo Cannon uses the same method, copping song ideas while driving a Chicago city bus. The guitarist-singer must have hauled some lively passengers: He wrote everything on his “The Chicago Way” album and burst on the national scene at the 2015 Chicago Blues festival. Cannon headlines Sunday in the last show of the season at Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady), a blues barbecue blow-out with local hero Matt Mirabile opening and food by Slidin’ Dirty and LT’s Grill. 7 p.m.Free. www.musichavenstage.org. (Cleeves won the first-ever Duncan Lawrie Dagger prize for crime fiction and several novels are British TV series: “Vera” and “Shetland,” but I digress.)

Dave Mason and Steve Cropper. Zeligs of classic-rock guitar, team up at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) Wednesday. In and out of great bands – Traffic, Delaney & Bonnie, Derek and the Dominos, Fleetwood Mac – Mason played such hot guitar on his “Alone Together” solo debut (1970 on marble-pattern vinyl) that listeners thought it was Eric Clapton or George Harrison. (Mason also played on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland;” Michael Jackson sang on Mason’s “Save Me”!) More recently, Mason has played Alive at Five and The Egg.

With Booker T. & the MG’s, Cropper played on and wrote many Memphis-soul classics: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding, “In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett, “Knock on Wood” with Eddie Floyd and albums-ful of others. Later he played with Levon Helm’s RCO All Stars, the Blues Brothers (including a SPAC show) and Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar festivals. Booker T says of Cropper, “He gets a lot of sounds out of a Telecaster without changing any settings, just by using his fingers, his picks and his amps;” Keith Richards calls his playing “perfect, man.” Mason and Cropper will perform with Mason’s band: Alvino Bennett, drums; Tony Patler, keyboards; Johnne Sambataro, guitar; and singer Gretchen Rhodes. She also opens. 7:30 p.m. $75, $49.50, $39.50, also VIP specials. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

Black Violin hits the SPAC stage Monday; so could we, but it sold out, likely on rave word of mouth after a recent Troy Music Hall show.

Horn- or piano-powered New Orleans bands play the Parish Public House (388 Broadway, Albany) this week: Papa John Gros tonight; Chapter:Soul Saturday, led by sax-man Calvin Johnson Jr.; and trombonist Big Sam Williams with his Funky Nation Wednesday.

Pianist Gros (say “Grow”) plays deep funk with his new quintet after six albums with Papa Grows Funk. Tonight 9 p.m. Swatkins & the Positive Agenda follow at 10:30. $15. 518-465-0444 www.parishpublichouse.com

Johnson formed Chapter:Soul with Kashonda Bailey, keyboards; Thomas Glass, drums; and Evan Washington, bass; to play what he calls “NOLA future funk…music about love and partying” after touring with Harry Connick Jr.’s big band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and more. Saturday. 9 p.m. $12

Big Sam’s Funky Nation returns to the Parish Public House Wednesday for more “Noladelic power funk,” featuring J Blakk, bass; Andrew “Da Phessah” Baham, trumpet; Joshua Connelly, guitar; and Chocolate Milk, drums. 9 p.m. $18 advance. $23 door

Four Music Haven shows have featured accordions – Lakou Mizik, Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna, Dwayne Dopsie and Skerryvore last Sunday: an evening with nine bagpipes! (Dopsie squeezed the hottest riffs of all accordionists this season but his band had no bagpipes…)
Seven of those nine pipers (and five drummers) were in the Schenectady Pipe Band who marched in playing “Scotland the Brave” to start a short opener that peaked with “Shenandoah” and “Amazing Grace,” majestic and solemn.


Skerryvore packed two pipers, tin-whistle, fiddle and accordion, sounding at times like a folk band jamming with rockers; they also came armed with electric piano, bass, drums and guitar. Other times they sounded like the reverse. “Live Forever” roared out of the box on fat guitar riffs, galloping into a hearty singalong; then “The Exorcists” sounded more Celtic, a set of devilish reels, while “Happy to be Home” and “End of the Line” felt more compact before they blasted things wide open again on bagpipe skirls. Like Runrig’s borrowed “Rocket to the Moon,” an exile’s lament, and their own “Angry Fiddler,” many songs started quietly then sped up hard. But the set-closing “Hold Up Your Hands” and encore “Take My Hand” packed plenty of adrenaline; guitarist Alec Daighlish riffing right into “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” as the band followed.

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