DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
John Abercrombie & Andy Laverne (guitar & piano) – The Art of the Duo (2006)
Published on July 20, 2007
Studio: Mel Bay MB21277DVD
Video: 4:3, color
Audio: PCM Stereo
Extras: Interview with Abercrombie & Laverne
Length: 69 minutes
I’m probably not as heavily into jazz guitar as most of the customers of Mel Bay’s extensive catalog of DVDs on the subject, but I found this one to be the most satisfying of any of their guitar videos which I’ve seen. Abercrombie is one of the top guitarists playing today. He played with Chico Hamilton and has had his own quartet for over a quarter century. He’s done three albums for ECM and has performed and recorded with many other ECM artists. Abercrombie is also active as a teacher and clinician.
For this video session Abercrombie turned to the duo he has had with pianist Laverne, also for a quarter century. It was decided to play only their own compositions, which are divided about half and half between the two performers. So the emphasis is on a very personal interaction between the two musicians, who are completely familiar with each other’s improvisations and style. There are not many individual solos, but a more continual blend of the two instruments, in a generally introspective style.
The interview goes into some detail about the background and history of the duo. They like the phrase “conversational improvised music” for what they do. In the absence of a rhythm section the two instruments can soar more freely and creatively. Laverne talks about the duo of Bill Evans and Jim Hall having been an initial model for them, and how sticking to original compositions for this video frees them from overly emphasizing that influence.
The stage setup is rather straightforward with the piano and guitar. Both musicians concentrate heavily on the music in front of them and register little emotion or reactions to anything they play. Abercrombie, for example, never looks up from the music. Interest is added to the videography by occasional split-screen effects and even going to black and white for brief periods. The tune Any Given Time by Laverne reminded me in its elegiac feeling of the MJQ’s Django. The closing number, written by Laverne as a tribute to his late parents, also has a moving elegiac melody. The sound is well-balanced between the two instruments and the lowest tones of both piano and guitar are captured well, with minimum sound of whistling strings on the latter.
Good Measure, Any Given Time, Just a Waltz, Comfort Zone, Jasmine, Handy Number, Crystal Night, Avion, Forty Three, After Ours, On the Bright Side, Kaddish
— John Henry