What better way to close out the week, than to spend the evening with some old friends?

Jazz is what brings people like singer Ethel Ennis and guitarists Gene Bertoncini, Laurindo Almeida and Carlos Barbossa-Lima to Annapolis this weekend to help wrap up the Charlie Byrd Music Festival. But friendship could almost be the underlying theme of the event, which began last month at the Maryland Inn's King of France Tavern.

Bertoncini is, in a sense playing a return engagement. Previously in town to perform with fellow guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, he will share the stage tonight with longtime friend Ennis, of Baltimore.

Asked what a singer was doing in the middle of a guitar festival, Bertoncini replied, "The guitar and voice are the two most complementary voices around. When they are together, a wonderful kind of sympathy happens, and they can really cook, too."

"I first met Gene in the early 60s," said Ennis. "We were introduced through my former manager. At the time, he was the staff guitarist with The Tonight Show and playing with a trio at the Club Living Room in New York City.

"Anyway, we booked on the (Tonight) show, just voice and guitar, and got a standing ovation, and we've been bumping into each other ever since."

Ennis described Bertoncini as "a really fine artist. He just loves and lives for his music and is a wonderful person to work with."

Bertoncini returned the compliment, praising Ennis, who also plays piano, as an "all-around musician. That's what makes her so great to work with; she hears your playing the way you do."

In addition, Bertoncini said that that the Tavern appearance presages another first for the two friends -- their first album together.

"It's really our first attempt at a complete statement involving just the two of us," he said, "It's something I've always wanted to do with Ethel, because I love her so much."

With the project still in the arrangement and composition stage, Bertoncini says they plan to go into the studio even if they don't find a label first.

"We're just making the painting," he said. "We'll see who supplies the frame. I believe that musicians should do that, instead of waiting for a sponsor."

Barbossa-Lima and Almeida, both originally from Brazil but now based in this country, will continue the unofficial friendship theme tomorrow and Sunday night when they share the stage with Byrd. It will be a live version of the trio's classic album, "Brazilian Masters," recorded on the Concord label in 1989.

"I've known Charlie for close to 20 years," said Almeida. "We've been good friends since he had his (jazz club) in Washington. We've played together many times, and our styles match. There's a unity there when we play together that's a real thrill."

Almeida said he has known fellow countryman Barbossa-Lima almost as long.

"I've known of him since he was 11 years old in Brazil, where he recorded his first album, but it wasn't until he came to live in America that we met, about 15 years ago," said Almeida. "He can play so many different things to perfection. It's a pleasure to play with him."

Barbossa-Lima said that he first met Byrd through their mutual friend and teacher, the late Sophocles Pappas, during a visit to the United States in 1967. A musical prodigy in his own country, Barbossa-Lima, now 45, has been a professional for nearly 35 years. He has performed on the guitar in both the jazz and classical styles.

He estimated his jazz and classical repertoire at about six hours worth of music, and said that the variety helps to keep things fresh and interesting for him.

Barbossa-Lima expressed pleasure at learning that the festival's conclusion would consist of him and his fellow guitarists.

"I admire Laurindo Almeida very much. I've played with Charlie Byrd and his trio before. It will be very nice playing with friends," he said.

The Charlie Byrd Music Festival continues tonight featuring Ennis and Bertoncini. They will be followed by Almeida and Barbossa-Lima tomorrow and Sunday.

Each Friday and Saturday show is two hours long, with one break. On Sunday night, there will be a special early benefit show at 6 p.m., followed by a regular two-set show at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Tickets for the Friday shows are $12, for Saturday night shows $15, and $10 for the Sunday shows.

Reservations: 263-2641 or 269-0990.

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