Larry Carlton was at his most approachable with Tak Matsumoto on Take Your Pick

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The author of many unforgettable guitar licks (“Kid Charlemagne,” anyone?), Larry Carlton’s flawless guitar technique is part blues, part jazz, part rock and all taste. But all the studio work he did in the ’70s and ’80s for the likes of Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Andy Williams and more (as well as being a multi-Grammy winner), didn’t do much to make him a household name in the States.

Japan, however, is a different story. He’s recorded at least three live albums as leader or co-leader there – though one of them, 1979’s Mr. 335 Live in Japan, remains available only as an import, as far as I know. This love affair with Larry Carlton continued into a new century, as he teamed up with Japanese guitar sensation Tak Matsumoto for the collaborative Take Your Pick, released on June 2, 2010. Like Mr. 335, this began life as a Japan-first/only release.

Matsumoto brought a heavy rock pedigree to the table as leader of the Nippon rock band the B’z, but his fusion side came out more for Take Your Pick, and his cultivated style meshed well with Carlton’s. This record reminded me so much of Carlton’s 1995 collaboration with Lee Ritenour that it could almost be called Larry & Lee, Part 2. Or more accurately, Larry & Tak.

In other words, Take Your Pick was a guitar album that didn’t dazzle you with flashy, in-your-face playing, but might satiate your soul with some highly polished fretwork. The whole sonic landscape might’ve been too lustrous to avoid the “smooth” jazz label but, as far as that genre goes, Larry Carlton and Tak Matsumoto created something that’s probably as good as it gets these days.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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