Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto – Take Your Pick – 335 Records

by | Aug 11, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto – Take Your Pick – 335 Records CD335-1006, 61:06  ****:

(Larry Carlton – guitar; Tak Matsumoko – guitar; Billy Kilson – drums; Michael Rhodes – bass; Jeff Babko – keyboards; Mark Dourhit – saxophone; Watanabe Fire – saxophone; Kazuhiro Takeda – saxophone; Mike Haynes – trumpet; Osamu Ueishu – trumpet; Barry Green – trombone; Azusa Tojo – trombone.)

Larry Carlton may be the most or least known guitarist of the last 40 years. Despite a long-term affiliation with The Jazz Crusaders, there are those who may not know him by name, but surely recognize his trademark, “sweet” sound. His brilliant work with Steely Dan (starting with Kid Charlemagne) helped define a jazz fusion sound that successfully brought rock into the world of jazz.  Additional sessions with Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Lee Ritenour, and Stanley Clarke, represent a fragment of this expansive resume. He would garner Grammy awards, including co-writing the theme to the 1980s television juggernaut, Hill Street Blues.

Tak Matsumoto has become a hard rocking phenomenon in Japan and around the world. With a preference for rock, blues, ska and classical music, he is inspired by the likes of Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai.  A composer, arranger, songwriter and musician, Matsumoto’s career was launched with the hard rock band, B’z.  He has formed his own group, TMG, and become a respected session player, releasing critically praised solo recordings.

Take Your Pick is a coalescence of divergent sounds and styles. The songs are able to capture the subtle and melodic sophistication of Carlton and the biting, distortion-filled licks of Matsumoto. With six songs separately written and arranged, the duo creates a viable, enticing compilation of material.  This is emphatic on “Jazzy Bullets”, which starts with a blistering Matsumoto lead, only to transition to a smooth jazzy Carlton signature line. “Nite Crawler 2010” utilizes a tight horn ensemble, with dual leads and solos. There is a consistent funky rhythm and slow breaks that give the number a sense of the hybrid nature of the composition. “Neon Blue," an understated atmospheric opus, weaves delicate melody around a slower beat, with guitar tradeoffs, resplendent in their delicacy.

Tunes like “A Girl from China” and “Easy Mystery” highlight an edgier sonic landscape, with rootsy colorful guitar work, and meticulous bass and drum backing. The title track cultivates a harsher acid-jazz feel, propelled by a higher volume and screaming notes.  What takes center stage, more often than not, is the symbiotic relationship of the dual bandleaders. Ranging from the breezy timing of “Tokyo Night”, to the groove oriented “East West Stroll” (including a notable ska transition), continuity is never upstaged by the instrumentation.

Carlton (Mr. 335 ) and Matsumoto (Les Paul Model) used customized Gibson guitars for this album.
TrackList: Jazzy Bullets; Nite Crawler; The Way We Were; Islands of Japan; Neon Blue; Tokyo Night; hotalu; East West Stroll; Easy Mystery; ao; Take Your Pick; A Girl from China

—  Robbie Gerson

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