A sporadically recurring supergroup featuring Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, and Barney Kessel, Great Guitars' portentous name carries enormous expectations. But with world-class talent like these three operating in comfortable mainstream country, the music is usually worthy of the billing, genially swinging and harmonically erudite, with Byrd's classical and Latin influences playing against Ellis' and Kessel's Charlie Christian-grounded solo bop. Founded in 1973, Great Guitars recorded its first live album in July of 1974 -- it was the fledgling Concord Jazz label's fourth release -- and the three would reunite now and then to tour and record four more albums. Though a crippling stroke in 1992 ended Barney Kessel's career, Byrd and Ellis carried on with Great Guitars, adding Ron Escheté to the lineup at the Carl Jefferson tribute concert at the Concord Pavilion in July 1995, and recording a fine reunion album in 1996 with Mundell Lowe and, on five tracks, Larry Coryell. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

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