Tam Matsumoto Guitar Album Blows New and Tired

Strings of My Soul
335 Records 1208
* * ½

Guitarist Tak Matsumoto assumes four identities, that of a New Age artist, a crunching rock and roller, an introspective jazz innovator, and a Japanese traditional musician. He sometimes wears all four identities in the same piece. So does this make Strings of My Soul a daring blend, or a shepherd’s pie with too many ingredients? To my ear, both. The good news is that Matsumoto avoids the common guitar solo album problem of presenting everything as if it’s cut from the same cloth; he simply doesn’t dwell anywhere long enough for you to feel that way. He’s also highly skilled, as befits the Grammy Award winner that he is. It’s also a delight to hear tracks such as “Hana” and “Koi-Uta,” in which the Asian erhu (a two-stringed fiddle) shares sonic space with Western instruments. The bad news? Matsumoto’s rock departures may go down a storm in Japan, but most seem like decades-old news here in the West. Ditto atmospheric his New Age meanderings, a genre that’s well past its sell-by date. Even with the aid of Larry Carlton, I can do without a cover of “Suriyaki,” and I’ve always hated “My Favorite Things,” so that one left me cold as well.  A reworking of themes from the 1968 soundtrack for “Romeo and Juliet?” Okay, but…  I think Matsumoto is an amazing fret-board wizard, but the material and his arrangements left me hungry for more one moment, and slightly queasy the next.--Rob Weir   

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