LEO KOTTKE & MIKE GORDON

"Sixty Six Steps"

RCA Victor

When Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon teamed up for the 2002 album, "Clone," the baby boomer acoustic guitarist, who had always performed solo, and the Gen X electric bassist from Phish were improbable partners. The collaboration was surprisingly successful but seemed unlikely to be repeated. But then Gordon, a longtime calypso fan who had introduced the Mustangs' "Ya Mar" to Phish's live shows, noticed how much the syncopation in Kottke's finger picking resembled Caribbean rhythms. So Gordon persuaded Kottke to join him in Costa Rica and the Bahamas to create some island-inspired music. The result is the album "Sixty Six Steps."

Gordon was right; the springy skip in Kottke's phrasing did resemble calypso, and Gordon's bass playing had the same kind of push and pull. The duo soon became a trio when they were joined by Neil Symonette, the legendary house drummer at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. "Ya Mar" is the only true calypso number on the CD, but there's an island feel to the five Gordon originals, the four Kottke originals and the radical rearrangements of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion."

Kottke weaves melody and rhythm as nimbly as ever, and Gordon, whose prominent bass partners the guitar more than accompanying it, holds his own. Kottke doesn't have much of a voice, but he has learned how to make his deadpan vocals an effective element in the music. Gordon, who doesn't have much of a voice either, hasn't learned the same control, and his off-key vocals are the one disagreeable strand in an otherwise delightful project.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Wednesday at 9:30 club.