Guitarist Earl Carter releases his sophomore offering titled “495,” with desire and aspiration on taking his music career to the next level. Carter has been kickin’ it with various who’s, who of not only the music industry but films as well. For example: in the early nineties he recorded music for Spike Lee’s movie “Do The Right Thing,” he also laid down several tracks for “Daddy’s House” produced for non-other then rap star, producer, fashion & business mogul P. Diddy. According to his liner notes: “Carter works frequently as a freelance artist.” In most recent years he lent his guitar stylings to some of the hottest names in smoothjazz and r&b Bobby Lyle, Marcus Johnson, Mike Phillips, Regina Bell and he’s also opened for legendary groups like Pieces of a Dream and Spyro Gyra.  

The Players: Prince Dejour ~ Vocals, Michael Burton ~ sax, Michael Baker ~ bass, Patrick Cooper ~ keyboards & synth bass, Kim Corbett-Knight ~ vocals, Jay Williams ~ drums and Earl Carter ~ guitars, guitar & bass synth, drum programming, Produced by Earl Carter and Patrick Cooper for Earl Carter © 2005 

The opening track titled “Inner Loop” is just that, it’s a hip interlude piece that lasts for forty-seven seconds! Mr. Carter takes on the pop classic “Fly Like an Eagle”.  This is one of those tracks that I personally haven’t “Fly Like an Eagle” covered that much. However, Carter does a very nice job by adding his own twist to the mix.  

At the third spot Carter delves into the title cut “495” with some tasty guitar licks. “495,” has a strong urban vibe surrounded by loops and sequences (thru-out), some are provided by co-producer keyboardist Patrick Cooper along with solos by sax-man Michael Burton. Next up, Carter puts his spin to Tony, Toni, Tone’s classic “It Never Rains (in Southern California).” This is the second time I’ve heard this song covered, the first meeting was by keyboardist Rodney Franklin. On this trip Carter’s arrangement stays pretty close to the original with the only major distinction being his guitar playing with background vocals by Kim Corbett-Knight.   

Believe Me,” is definitely soulful on Carter’s behalf as a soloist. Earl’s guitar style is fluid and jazzy which unquestionably is reminiscent to another talented guitarist and gentleman named Rohn Lawrence. Out On a Limb,” is the next track penned by Carter and expresses kinship to the previous selection on the soulful mid to down tempo tip. Earl Carter can definitely play, there’s no doubt that he knows his way around the fret! 

On “Cocktail Showers,Carter handles all instrumentation (also on the next four selections). “The Dream” follows up this cut and both tracks are sonically in a dream like state instrumentally. “The Dream,” is pretty, with catchy hooks weaved in and out at intervals. I like his use of guitar-synth textures; he mirrors the Latin sound rather nicely. “The Village,” falls in at the 9th spot, which is also scored by Carter. He changes hats and tempo slightly at the 3:20 mark; he breaks in with a tasty synthesize guitar solo that sounds very good to me!  

With the next track “Steal Your Heart,” the title suggestive taps into the mood of intimacy. It’s a nice slow jam but not in the bedroom seductive sense that you would normally hear on tracks of this nature. “Autumn Groove,” could very well catch the attention of radio programmers. Carter’s guitar solo’s continue to be tight and in the groove on the piece. “Outer Loop,” another short piece closes out the set of twelve tracks on “495.”   

Earl Carter definitely knows his way around the axe, he plays with the finesse and strength equally as well as his peers. As aforementioned earlier in the review Mr. Carter has a serious resume in hand, he’s played and will continue to play with some of today’s best musicians in the smoothjazz and R&B genres. Will, his sophomore effort “495” take him to the next plateau? I’m not so sure it will because there appears to be some missing pieces to this puzzle. More interaction or involvement from session players and his working band could easily add more depth, color and punch that would fill the gaps (he’s got the skill set to challenge the listener). Nevertheless, with objective ears from smoothjazz programmers there are a few tracks that would fit the format (that is, in the right market setting). With this in mind Carter should get the attention that he so deserves as a quality musician. After all he’s young, gifted, talented and potentially one of the most promising guitarist waiting to spread his wings and possibly explore a wealth music that’s beckoning him to play at a moments notice. All the best Mr. Earl Carter!