Adversity is when your primary improviser and marquee name is indisposed and the weather gives serious concern as to where the ark is docked. The resourceful Washington Guitar Quintet solved at least part of this Friday night, enlisting Carlos Barbosa-Lima to fill in for Charlie Byrd, who is recovering from surgery. While there were expected minor changes in the group's sound, the chemistry was strong throughout the fivesome's performance Friday at the National Presbyterian Church.
The first half of the program reaffirmed just how well five guitars work as an ensemble when the arrangements are good and each player's personality is allowed to step out of the mix. In "Suite Gershwin," Jeffrey Meyerriecks recast five popular tunes so that at times fretboards resembled keyboards, as occurred with the deftly synchronized parts of "Promenade." Coy trade-offs between Myrna Sislen and Barbosa-Lima during "The Man I Love" were subtle touches, rewards for careful listening. Byrd was represented by three pieces he arranged under the heading "Django!" Meyerriecks echoed the Belgian gypsy's distinctive approach to jazz with some tasty solo lines.
Glenn Smith's "Box Talk," which received its world premiere, gave the quintet more breathing space to show its skill in songlike and contrapuntal settings. Things heated up quickly once the Latin portion of the concert began, and Barbosa-Lima switched to guitarra requinto (alto guitar), thereby bringing a brighter color to "Espanoleta de Camera" by Laurindo Almeida. The four-song collection "Latin Quarter" found Larry Snitzler tapping out a percussive accompaniment one moment, and the group offering the best choreographed finger-snap since "The Addams Family" in "Hernando's Hideaway."