Inspiring Carlton

Defining the eccentricity and the core of jazz, bebop has been considered to be the soul of jazz. Based on improvisational techniques and scale embellishments developed by jazz legends of the late 1930’s and 1940’s bepop has found its way into the India and straight into the hearts of music-lovers.   Born in the 1940’s, Carlton Kitto, now based in Kolkata is a well-known name in the jazz scene. Born in Bangalore, Kitto moved to Ooty and Coimbatore and took up a job with the railways in his early years. He moved to Kolkata in early 1970’s and became a part of the Jazz Ensemble. Ever since he has been playing across venues in Kolkata like Moulin Rouge, Mocambo, Trincas, Blue Fox and Someplace Else and has also been spreading the love for music as a teacher at The Calcutta School of Music.

Currently, the maestro plays at Chowringhee Bar at The Oberoi Grand in Kolkata. But away from all the jazz, he is a guitar teacher living under impoverished conditions. A walk up a steep and dark staircase at 30/1 Alimuddin street in Kolkata is all it takes to find him.

In an interview with EXEC he speaks about guitarists who have inspired him:

Charlie Christian: Hailed as one of the founding fathers in the development of bebop in the 1930’s and 40’s he came to limelight as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra. He was known for his single string technique and contributed to the development of guitar’s role from “ rhythm section” to a solo instrument. Some of his recordings that one must listen to are
Charlie Christian with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra
Solo Flight: The Genius of Charlie Christian
Genius of the Electric Guitar (Columbia, 1939-1941 recordings)
Live At Minton’s Playhouse 1941

Barney Kessel: An American Jazz guitarist known for his chords, inversions and chord based melodies who played for studio recordings, film and television. He was also a member of a group of session musicians known as “ The Wrecking Crew”. One of his custom instruments was the 12-string guitar neck attached to a mandolin body.  He is also known for playing Mister Spock’s theme on bass for Star Trek episode Amock Time.  Kessel presented his seminar “ The Effective Guitarist” in various locations around the world in 1970’s and has also performed with Charlie Byrd as “ the Great Guitars”.

Some of his recordings that one must listen to are

The Poll Winners Ride Again with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown
Kessel plays Carmen
The Poll Winners Three!  with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown
Some Like It Hot with Art Pepper
The Poll Winners – Exploring the Scene!  with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown
Let’s Cook!

George Benson: His early works inspires Carlton because he believes that Benson had sold himself to too much commercialisation by the late 1960’s and the magic of bebop faded away with it. Carlton enjoyed his technique from the early years.        Some of his early recordings are “Witchcraft”, “ Cast Your Fate to the Wind”, “The Masquerade is Over”, “ All Blues”, “Jazz After Hours with George Benson” etc.

Pat Martino: Pat Martino an Italian American Jazz Guitarist and composer within post bop and fusion. Carlton says, he is an inspiration from the contemporary Bebop musicians.    His lines include chromatic notes outside any particular IIm7 chord that might be conceptualised over a chord progression.
Some of his recordings that one must listen to are
El Hombre
The Visit
The Maker

Carlton speaks on Harmony and Bebop:
“ Harmony consists of Chord Constructions, Chord Embellishments, Substitution and Linkages.”   Bebop has a lot to do with harmony and one must know Substitution and Chord Linkages to play it.    This is a step-by-step procedure that one must know to play jazz.

Customised Guitar:
Carlton uses a customised guitar manufactured in an Icchapur factory near Kolkata that he plays for most of his concerts (and has a tone meant for playing Bebop) and also played at Opus, Bangalore after the screening of  “Finding Carlton: Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India.”

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