The guitar can reign in the concert hall, but it's nice to have it back in the cafe'. Carlos Barbosa-Lima is at Charlie's in Georgetown through Sunday, sharing the stage with the Charlie Byrd Trio, and last night's opening was a double feast for jazz and classical guitar lovers.
From the baroque to the recent Brazilian, Barbosa-Lima traversed the repertory with ease. His tone can reveal a gentle, fast vibrato that never strays from the pitch but is unusual enough to command attention. In the Villalobos Prelude No. 2, the merest sketch of a bass figure was enough to suggest a samba beat as the melody flew wildly. A wide dynamic range was a welcome surprise in his transcription of a Scarlatti sonata. And in another transcription, the adagio from the Bach violin sonata No. 2, his speed and accuracy were amazing, even trilling to perfection. Curiously, only a "Batucada" by Isaias Savio lacked the proper dance frenzy.
The proper batucada feeling was embodied in the Charlie Byrd Trio's rendition of Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band," which got a fabulous samba treatment in the opening set. Byrd's guitar sang up its own storm, particularly in the tonally clever variations he visited upon "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
Only the combination of Byrd and Barbosa-Lima disappointed. It was not that the styles of these two pupils of Segovia clashed, but rather that an obvious lack of rehearsal bred caution in each player, and the results were, at best, tentative.