I can't believe I missed this post. Allow me to elaborate.
Please do. Is this some sort of sorry dig at players Like Hendrix, Clapton or Page? or perhaps EvH?
It would be counter-productive to "dig" at these guys because Fusion guitar wouldn't exist without them. Half of John McLaughlin's bag of electric guitar tricks came straight from his time with Hendrix.
My thesis is that the art of phrasing is more refined in the Fusion style, where in Blues/Rock playing, phrasing is basically optional. This is because the Blues/Rock style is more textural and more about making the guitar sing and growl.
What is good phrasing? Hitting active chord tones on the strong beats and using passing tones in between, for starters. Refined phrasing takes much study, usually including studying solos on the music staff in order to better understand how the melody interacts with the active chord.
The basis for fusion is rock+jazz and the basis for both rock and jazz is blues. In either one of those genres you will find players taking liberties with timing; that's part of these styles. Hendrix' Red House from Live at Winterland is a masterclass in timing and polyrhythms, thanks in part to a Jazz trained rhythm section. Page, Clapton (Cream) and EvH used jazz trained rhythm sections, allowing them those liberties.
I am not referring to their ability to play in time. Even in Classical music there is an unspoken protocol of when you can play behind the beat and when you should be straight. One universal rule of thumb would be that downbeats should be right on the money, where syncopated notes can be behind the beat to "dig in" more.
In my original post I am talking about the rhythmic drive of their phrases, and how they fit together to speak like a language. Blues is a wonderful language but there isn't a whole lot to it. This is why so many guys can learn blues phrasing without knowing much theory. But phrasing IS Jazz. A Jazz solo must speak like a language. That language can include notes ahead or behind the beat if it follows the rules.
Also one of Carlton's biggest influences is Coltrane. Why rip on Rock/Blues players improvising "trashed out of their minds"
when 'Trane was just as guilty of this? Both he and Miles were addicted to heroin.
During the peak of the Rock and Roll frontier (late sixties to end of the seventies) there was an ethos within that culture that getting as wasted as possible will bring out your inner musical genius. I can tell you from my own history with chemicals that this is not true. I can conclude the same from observing the dozens of musicians that I grew up with.
Jazz does not have a reckless ethos like this. It requires a discipline and Zen-like state that chemicals do not allow. There are many Jazz players who have had affairs with chemicals, especially opiates, but they all know the inner genius comes from massive amounts of practice and studying the greats. Coltrane admitted that his addiction was an inhibition to his creativity. Miles kicked the Heroin problem but kept the Coke habit indefinitely. You can hear in Miles' playing how whacked out he was after about 1970. (Nonetheless I still love most of his whacked-out stuff.)
What's weird too, is that I'm sure Carlton can play, but the example you've provided has to be Larry Carlton at his worst.
He sounds like a poor Albert King impersonator. Please leave that stuff to Clapton or SRV. They are much better at it.
He is playing Blues in the pocket without noodling. This is why it serves as a good example to the OP.
"All Blues" is not supposed to be a "Blues" song. It is a Jazz standard that calls for typical Jazz lines in a dominant-7th tonality. It has "Blues" in its name because its in a 3 feel (6/8 to be exact) and is basically a I IV V progression. His solo is absolutely perfect for the tune.
I will admit that SOMETIMES he will show signs of his cheesy 70's Pop Jazz roots. You can hear it here in much of his lead playing. I do not see this as a weakness though, its just what he thinks sounds good.
The "upstaging" here will be subjective. I liked them both. To your credit, Robben Ford would have been a better example in my original post. He is a great Blues-oriented Fusion player who knows his stuff.
I think it is the most common error for fusion players:
they try too hard to emulate or evoke a certain style which isn't theirs, whether blues or rock or progressive.
Here is where you are dead wrong. To become a great improviser, one of the pivotal steps along that journey is imitation. Emulating a "style that isn't yours" is a skill in itself, not a mistake. Most Blues players learn to imitate SRV and Clapton. These two in particular are incredible for being the first to do what they did, but at this point it has been analyzed and copied as many times as Bach or Charlie Parker. I myself can do a really good imitation of many players including Clapton and SRV. Imitation is a right-of-passage as an improviser, putting you on the road to your own style.
Fusion guitar requires a combination of different guitar styles and techniques. Blues bends/vibratos, hybrid picking, and Jazz Lines to name a few. As an aspiring Fusion player you need to learn to imitate great players in all these departments.
This is when that "Fusion" takes place.