Andy LaVerne & John Abercrombie: Live From New York

Just piano and guitar: Can Andy LaVerne and John Abercrombie go on meeting this way? If we’re lucky, they will. Their occasional alliances, in both duo and quartet settings, go back 20 years now and continue to produce quietly compelling programs blending vintage pop standards with original compositions.

If there’s nothing particularly competitive about how these jazz veterans interact, there are absolutely no signs of complacency. The players are alert, the arrangements are spacious and the guitar and piano improvisations flow freely, enhanced by the subtle harmonic input that each musician provides the other-or when pianist LaVerne’s left hand is actively supporting his right.

Recorded in the spring of 2010 at Baruch College in New York, the music benefits from an attentive audience-a big plus, too, for listeners at home-and it doesn’t take long before the influence of pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall is felt in subtle and sophisticated ways. The Evans/Hall duologues provide an accurate analogy throughout this recording, especially in the artful performances of “I Hear a Rhapsody” and “Witchcraft.”

But as enjoyable as the freshly arranged pop tunes are, what makes Live From New York really special are the original pieces, three composed by Abercrombie, four by LaVerne. Each contribution has a distinctive personality, perhaps best illustrated by Abercrombie’s stealthy “At the Cat” and LaVerne’s haunting ballad “Portrait in Jazz.”