Jim Beard / Jon Herington ‘Chunks and Chairknobs’ LP/CD (Jazzline) 3/5

Having shared countless hours together in the studio over the years playing on each other’s albums, it comes as no surprise that pianist Jim Beard and guitarist Jon Herington decided to record this intimate duo album. The two musicians have also performed together with the likes of Michael and Randy Brecker, Bill Evans and Bob Berg, though it is perhaps their shared involvement with Steely Dan for the past several years that has cemented their musical partnership more than ever before.

While the ultimate role model for guitar-piano duets would have to be Jim Hall and Bill Evans, Beard and Harrington take a different path, with the tunes presented here steering away from the traditional jazz mould towards a more all-encompassing fusion of blues, pop, jazz and funk.

Not surprisingly, given the duo’s musical experiences together, there is an organic, naturally intuitive feel to the music on this session. Regardless of style or genre, the duo are obviously very at ease with what they’re doing, making for an enjoyable listen throughout. The eight tunes are made up of an engaging mix of originals and covers, with just enough variation in the program to keep things interesting.

I do like the flirtatious element of some of this music, the sparkling “Gaucho” being a prime example with its bluesy Jarrett-esque piano chords punctuated by some fine blues-driven guitar playing. What’s interesting is how this duo manage to create little pastiches within the songs themselves, as with this tune where little parts sound like Metheny and Mays have effortlessly taken over the tune before returning to its original intent. Two exemplary pros like Beard and Herington are capable of changing styles at the drop of a hat, and to that end, there’s a good selection of pieces to listen to, from the gentle bossa nova infused “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”, to the old-time boogie-woogie of the foot-tapping title track. There’s no lack of creativity either, with the more reflective “Loose Blues” and the slightly melancholic yet rhythmically uplifting “Hand to Hand” being particular favourites of this listener.

“Chunks and Chairknobs” is an enjoyable album. Whilst one might argue a lack of depth or originality, there’s no argument with the music being expertly performed, as one might expect from these two seasoned pros. The duo’s obvious chemistry keeps the album ticking along nicely, with their wonderful interaction and interplay keeping the listener tuned-in to its intimacy and skilful subtleties.

Mike Gates