Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel - Great Guitars, as their performing package is named - are all steeped in the jazz tradition, but each brought along something special and a little different to an evening of instrumental music at Wolf Trap last night.
Byrd, in his three pieces by Jobim, demonstrated his impressive classical technique and his immersion in the Latin idiom. On the third of these, "Agua De Beber," he got off some bluesy picking in a flamenco-like passage, with Joe Byrd walking around his bass as fleet of finger as brother Charles.
When Ellis took his coat off (to much applause) on this hot and humid night, Kessel's remark, "I'm glad you're finally getting down," was playful but meaningful in that the Texas-born Ellis can do it very down and dirty on his guitar. He did just that on his own "Outer Drive" and on the Gershwin piece "Lady Be Good."
The interconnected and bop-ish lines of Kessel were nurtured by way of a lot of dues-paying by him in the big bands of the '40s. The changes flew fast and furious as he explored Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" and then, with Ellis, Charlie Christian's "Seven Come Eleven."
The full quintet took it out on a medley of contrasting compositions by guitarists Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery and Christian, and a horn-like jam on the latter's and B.G.'s "Benny's Bugle."
Throughout, drummer Wayne Phillips proved to be a steady time-keeper as well as one who can make a clean and concise statement in a break.