Travis Carlton: Living Up to His Groove Legacy

“I started on guitar about age ten,” says Travis Carlton, “but when I started jamming with other people my first year of high school, it became obvious that bass was my instrument.
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“I started on guitar about age ten,” says Travis Carlton, “but when I started jamming with other people my first year of high school, it became obvious that bass was my instrument.” Falling a string or two short from the family tree rooted by his father and jazz-guitar legend Larry Carlton, Travis has the kind of facility and feel for fusion one might expect. He’s making his moniker touring seven years strong with guitar guru Scott Henderson of Tribal Tech, plus playing with his pop, and with keyboard maestro Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Cartlon mixed his seven-piece band Groovy Legacy’s self-titled record to sound warm and welcoming, with tracks that flow freely from feel to feel, and showcase the extraordinary talents of the entire credits-galore gang.

What’s the story behind Groove Legacy as a band?

We’ve all played together for years. Keyboardist Bill Steinway [Jazz Crusaders] and sax player Paulie Cerra [Joe Bonamassa] started writing, and they wanted to put together a Crusaders-style book of tunes. That turned into Groove Legacy. My role has been more on the production side. I wrote one tune for the album, “Cornell.” It’s a little tribute to guitarist Cornell Dupree, and I got my dad to play on it. But my main thing has been trying to keep it funky, and keep the tonal vibe on the record right.

Can you share some tone insights?

Although I have a big sound, I don’t get too bright unless I have to slap, which is basically never now. Getting the right sound for the song or band is super important. If you’re trying to sound retro but playing a super active bass, it probably wont have that vibe. If you want to sound clean, modern, and big but you play an old Teisco or Kay bass, that’s not going to work right, either.

How did you cop such fresh feels on Groove Legacy?

I tracked everything live. Even the bass solo on “47 Degree Angle” was a one-take, no-punch situation. Other parts were overdubbed, but the bass and drums were left as is from the original session. The studio where we recorded—Kingsize Soundlabs in Eagle Rock, California—had a great early-’70s Ampeg V-4 that brought a lot of the right grit to my sound.

You must have been exposed to an insane amount of groovy music growing up. What players and recordings made the deepest impact?

I got into Paul Jackson’s playing on all of Herbie Hancock’s records, but probably Thrust first. I appreciated the way he could be so funky yet so free to play his vocabulary in a way that wasn’t simply a repeating part. And his whole vocabulary is insanely funky! I seriously studied Pino Palladino’s playing on D’Angelo’s Voodoo. Pino is the man on how to get a rolled-off tone and still be in the mix, and how to play understated but still be in the game. And I was so lucky to grow up hearing Abraham Laboriel Sr. play with my father, as well as watching them record. Abe is a master of playing what he hears, and what he hears is beautiful. It’s a lesson on being true to your voice. If you’re true to that and you can put even half the heart Abe puts into the music—it’s going to feel great.

INFO

LISTEN

Groove Legacy, Groove Legacy [2016, Pledge Music]; Scott Henderson, Vibe Station [2015]; Robben Ford, Soul on Ten [2009, Concord]

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EQUIP

Basses Xotic XJ-1t (4-, 5-, and 6-string), Moollon P-Classic, ’76 Fender Precision Bass
Rig TecAmp Puma 900, TecAmp Virtue Cabinet
Effects Moog MF-101 Moogerfooger Lowpass Filter, MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, Free The Tone Bass Blaster
Strings D’Addario EPS165-5 ProSteels Custom Light (.045–.135)

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