Tal Farlow is one of the best-kept secrets in jazz. Although no stranger to guitar enthusiasts -- his records, old and new, are coveted by some fans -- Farlow hasn't made the rounds as often as some of his better-known contemporaries. His self-imposed absence from the club circuit hasn't boosted his recognition factor any in recent years. But neither has it compromised his technique or tarnished his warm, glowing tone.
Last night at Charlie's, Farlow opened with a graceful ballad, spelled out is shimmering single-note runs and punctuated with a few characteristic slaps to the fret board. On Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" he immediately established the calypso beat on the bass strings. He then deftly developed the theme with a shower of triplets, sustaining other notes or sliding up to them for added rhythmic effect.
His sense of harmony and knowledge of chord inversions are so secure that the fleet and gentle runs that dominate his style never sound hurried or inappropriate. Nowhere was that more apparent than on Ellington's "In a Mellotone" which sparkled with ringing harmonics and was supported nicely by bassist Paul Langosh and drummer Chuck Redd.
The Tal Farlow trio appears through Sunday at Charlie's.