As guitarist Barney Kessel was thoughtfully exploring the harmonic possibilities of "Yesterday" at Charlie's last night, a small dish dropped to the floor. Moments later, someone spilled a glass of ice. Unfazed, Kessel completed the lovely ballad and then stepped to the microphone. The song, he said, was in the key of C, the dish in E natural and the ice in D flat. A joke, of course, but then who's to doubt Barney Kessel's ear?
Certainly no one who heard him engage Charlie Byrd in several highly intricate duets earlier in the evening. Deftly trading rhythm and lead functions, they created fleeting lines of delicate counterpoints while smoothly blending the contrasting tones of their instruments. When backed by bassist Joe Byrd and drummer Chuck Redd, they also swung with imperturbable grace on such tunes as "Talk of the Town" and "I've Got Rhythm."
In taking solo turns, both guitarists looked to South America for inspiration: Kessel with a lush rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave" and a more festive "Brazil," and Byrd with a couple of stately waltzes that displayed both his classical technique and his affinity for the Latin sound.
When they perform with Herb Ellis, Kessel and Byrd are known as the Great Guitars. Even without Ellis, the label sticks. The pair will be performing through Sunday.