On his new album, classical guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima has wisely consigned the work of composers Antonio Carlos Jobim and George Gershwin to separate sides. Chances are it's the Jobim side that will get worn down first: The songs here bask in a warmth that the Gershwin selections seem to lack. Maybe it's the blend of baroque embellishment and Latin romantic lyricism inherent in Jobim's six selections, but Barbosa-Lima achieves extraordinary color and expressive impact.
"Caminho de Pedra (Rocky Road)," "Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)" and "Corcovado (Quiet Nights)" are all dreamy pastorals, lovely and engaging melody lines flowing through quiet soundscapes. "Desafinado (Off Key)," one of Jobim's best-known tunes, starts off elegiac before sliding into an irresistible bossa beat. The technique here is astounding: at once gentle and emphatic, crystal tones vying with hammered chords. Barbosa-Lima tempers virility with sensitivity, always broadening the emotional parameters of music he seems to have a special affinity for.
The eight Gershwin selections are another matter. Except for two classically conceived preludes ("2" is an odd companion to "Desafinado"), the pop selections neither swing nor sway, though "Promenade" is a light-hearted night jaunt along a candle-lit lake. But "Swanee," "S'Wonderful" and "Merry Andrew" all clock in at just above a minute and seem little more than stylistic exercises, devoid of emotional integrity. The technique is still there, but the heart apparently stayed on the flip side. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM CARLOS BARBOSA-LIMA Plays the Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and George Gershwin (Concord Concerto CC2005). THE SHOWS CARLOS BARBOSA-LIMA, this Friday through Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30 at Charlie's Georgetown.