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Takahiro Matsumoto, better known as simply Tak Matsumoto, rose to become Asia's undisputed number one rock guitarist of his time, mainly because of the success of his band B'z, although his solo and collaborative efforts played a viable role in establishing his reputation as well. Matsumoto developed his rock obsession at the start of high school, quickly moving from simply listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin to buying a Gibson Les Paul and practicing for ten hours a day. This devotion paid off, but it took years, during which Matsumoto spent some time impressing teachers at a music school and then working as a session guitarist with the '80s heavy metal/AOR star Mari Hamada and the pop/rockers TM Network. He didn't like it, because their sound didn't have enough guitars, but a single solo effort (Thousand Wave, 1988) showed him that it wasn't quite what he wanted, either. Then, together with the vocalist and lyricist Koshi Inaba, he founded B'z -- not the most hard rocking band to walk the Earth, but certainly one of the more successful ones, with sales exceeding 75 million CDs in the first two decades of its existence. However, B'z didn't suffice as the only musical vehicle for Matsumoto, who never stopped doing periodic side projects -- his solo discography until 2008 included five proper full albums, all done in the classic hard rock fashion. In 1999 his instrumental prowess earned Matsumoto a promotion as a Gibson Signature Artist, upon the recommendation of Steve Vai, with whom B'z toured in Japan -- Matsumoto was the first guitarist from Japan to get the honor, but he made up for that by snatching the record for the number of signature models, of which he has four. Among his more inventive challenges to the guitar hero format was an album of Japanese New Year classics, Hit Parade (2003), recorded with the help of the nation's prime rock vocalists, as well as a quasi-classical venture, House of Strings (2004), written in true Deep Purple fashion for electric guitar and orchestra. In 2004 he also formed the Tak Matsumoto Group with a cast of Western musicians including Eric Martin from Mr. Big on vocals, the band releasing the album TMG I the same year. In 2005 Matsumoto returned to classical music to rework four songs by other musicians for a cover album, Theatre of Strings, issued by his own label. ~ Alexey Eremenko

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