The guitar playing of Carlos Barbosa-Lima is a textbook example of purity in music: Each note emerging from the Brazilian-born classical/jazz musician’s instrument just seems right, as if no other could be in its place. His sparkling tone pushes each of those notes out into the world with boldness and heart, and his precision and aptitude give the music added potency; it’s a sound you can listen to all night long and still be in awe when you finally pack it in.
For his latest, Manisero, Barbosa-Lima, a longtime New York resident, met up in Munich with fellow guitarist Johannes Tonio Kreusch and Cornelius Claudio Kreusch, the latter’s brother, who produced the 13-song program and accompanied the pair on piano on four tracks. Drawing from a collection of largely Brazilian sources for their material—including Barbosa-Lima’s compatriots Luiz Bonfá, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Pixinguinha, and Heitor Villa-Lobos—the pair of guitarists and their occasional pianist make it all sound exceedingly easy.
The absence of a rhythm section and other ornamentation allows the listener to focus on the guitars more closely, and that, after all, is what it’s all about. A pair of compositions by the Argentinean Alberto Ginastera, “Danza Criolla I” and “Danza Criolla III,” whisper, but as they give way to his third consecutive piece, “Gato,” suddenly there is mystery and drama. Earlier, the Jobim track, “Canta, Canta Mais,” co-composed by Vinícius de Moraes, rings in harmony as the guitars dance in concentric circles. And Moisés Simons’ disc-opening “El Manisero” (The Peanut Vendor), one of the most ubiquitous Cuban songs, is melodic candy in the hands of Barbosa-Lima and Kreusch.