John Abercrombie and Andy LaVerne: A Nice Idea

Unlike his recent ECM recordings-which suggest renewed interest in early-’70s progressivism-John Abercrombie’s duo discs with pianist Andy LaVerne are pure Sunday brunch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s pleasant to hear the once-aggressive guitarist dig into some old chestnuts. On Abercrombie and LaVerne’s fifth duo album, A Nice Idea, the two old friends spend the majority of the 70-minute set coving the likes of Henry Mancini (“Days of Wine and Roses”), Jerome Kern (“In Love in Vain”) and Thelonious Monk (“‘Round About Midnight”).

Abercrombie plays the tunes with a muted, treble-free tone that betrays none of the bite he achieves in band settings; LaVerne, a mellow instrumentalist to say the least, comes across as edgy in comparison-the only real surprise to be found here. Together, they improvise tastefully throughout. They take no chances with the material and, as such, get few distinctive results. Essential it is not. But Idea nonetheless makes a fine soundtrack for a three-egg omelet.