"Out of respect for the performing artists, we request you keep your conversation to a minimum during the performances," reads a card conveniently placed on each table at Charlie's. It is a noble sentiment and one that is necessary for any musical establishment. Regrettably, the patrons at last night's show did not heed the message.

After the first three songs had been inundated by a sea of tinkling glasses and loud voices (and after the management had failed to enforce its rules), guitarist Laurindo Almeida was forced to take matters into his own hands. Firmly, but politely, he pleaded for silence.

All of which was embarrassing and unfortunate, because Almeida (who will be appearing Tuesdays through Sundays through Feb. 1) is the most delicate of performers. In his hands, the guitar is limpid, impressionistic instrument capable of a vast range of tonal shadings and soft percussive accents.

Almeida featured various musical styles, from the sambas of Antonio Carlos Jobin to a Chopin prelude and a minuet by Haydn. To each, he brought a sensitivity and interpretative grace that were absolutely stunning. Laurindo Almeida does not merely play the guitar, he caresses it, coaxing from it sounds that many of his counterparts can only dream about.