Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The contemporary state of the jazz guitar - with its high volume and technical complexity - obscures the subtle and melodic qualities that were once the trademarks of the instrument. The modern jazz guitar confronts and attacks; the older styles soothe and reassure.
Playing in the intimate comfines of Blues Alley Monday night (through Saturday) guitarists Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis presented music whose quiet charm and bluesy simplicity bespoke an earlier age of jazz that seems to be regrettably on the wane.
The stlyes of the two musicians are different, yet they maintain an amiable dialogue that is witty and irresistible. Kessel's playing is fiery, with barrages of notes and angular phrases, while Ellis is more bluesy and his solos have a singing quality that is morrored in the facial antics which accompany his playing.
Traditional themes such as "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and Errol Garner's classic "Misty" were given new life, and "On Green Dolphin Street" featured a slow duet in which two guitars conversed like old friends. With bassist Steve Novesells and drummer Billy Rickenbach providing a solid rhythm accompaniment, Kessel and Ellis engaged in a furious solo trade-off on the last song, whose energy and imagination high-powered contemporaries.