Great Guitars

Great Guitars: Live

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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden

Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, and Charlie Byrd made five recordings under the banner Great Guitars for Concord between 1976 and 1982; this two-CD set combines both of their concert performances. With bassist Joe Byrd and either Jimmie Smith or Chuck Redd on drums, the guitarists complement one another's playing throughout both shows, with the two former Oscar Peterson sidemen on electric guitar and Byrd sticking to acoustic guitar. They primarily stick to standards of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s during the 1980 set taped at the Paul Masson Mountain Winery. Byrd, best known for helping to launch the bossa nova craze during the early '60s, shines in the extended workout of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "So Danço Samba" and a solo performance of "You Took Advantage of Me." Ellis and Kessel are unaccompanied in an introspective take of "Body and Soul." The second disc comes from a 1982 concert at Charlie's Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and features a more wide-ranging program. Starting with a breezy take of "Where or When," the guitarists are in top form. Their very deliberate introduction to Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans" milks the song's lyricism for all it is worth, though they cut loose into a swinging setting, with Ellis providing a bit of percussion on his strings. Charlie Byrd's brisk bossa nova scoring of the Dixieland favorite "When the Saints Go Marching In" proves to be very refreshing. Two pieces by Al Cohn add a bit of variety, the well-named "Pensive" and the ballad "Danielle," the latter in a bossa nova setting. They wrap their final recording together with a superb interpretation of Richard Jones' blues "Trouble in Mind." The single-CD price for this twin-disc compilation certainly adds to its appeal.

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