On his fifth album from Zoho Music, Merengue, Barbosa-Lima reaches into the grab bag, reviving several pieces from the 1989 classic Brazilian Masters CD (with Laurindo Almeida and Charlie Byrd), including the odd "Invocation to Xango," the enchanting "Veleiro" and the bouncy Nazareth cut "Escorregando," featuring the "World Guitar Trio." However, what’s pleasantly surprising on this release is the inclusion of Venezuelan cuatro player Gustavo Colina, who adds impetuosity and an unceasing fervent attack on fellow countryman Antonio Lauro’s compositions, "El Marbino" and "Seis por Derecho."
Fans of choro will enjoy Barbosa-Lima’s two offerings with mandolin player Marcilio Lopes because when can you ever go wrong with Gnattali and Bandolim when played well? Longtime musical partner, percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca (also on the Trio La Paz recordings), adds apropos minimalism to these two pieces.
While all cuts exhibit a high level of musicality, Colina’s duets with Barbosa-Lima remind us that classical guitar ensemble work, while requiring masterful technique, does not have to sound rigid, lifeless or over rehearsed.