The bright lights of a German television crew at Charlie's last night seemed to bother no one, probably because all were counting themselves fortunate for being in the presence of one of the masters of the acoustic guitar, Laurindo Almeida.
Tastefully supported by bassist Joe Byrd and drummer Chuck Redd, the Brazilian virtuoso and former associate of two Stans -- Kenton and Getz -- led off with a Carlos Jobim medley on which the transitions were so liquid-smooth and the execution so effortless that one might have thought the instrument as easy to play as tying a shoelace.
Almeida, a bear of a man, was jovial between numbers, but when he hunched forward over his guitar he was a study in concentration as he converted the initial familiarity of "Clair de Lune" from its lullaby delicacy into a hip-swiveling samba. Mozart also came in for some frivolity, while a solo arrangement of Kenton's "Artistry in Rhythm" had the guitarist simulating the chording of a piano beneath his riffs and horn lines. His own "Busy Bee" buzzed like a circling hornet.
The headliner was joined toward the set's end by Charlie Byrd, and their guitars blended well on several Brazilian pieces. Among Byrd's opening numbers was a new original, "Pinetop Slept Here," a rent party boogie with Joe Byrd on walking bass and the guitarist picking the treble.
The bill stays through Sunday.