Ian Herman and Sean Harkness: Duet


Ian-Herman-and-me IanHermanSean-Duet



CD Review by Marilyn Lester




Pianist Ian Herman and guitarist Sean Harkness are both seasoned, highly-regarded freelance musicians: leaders, players and composers who evidently had the great idea to combine their multitudinous talents. The result is a CD of ten original works entitled, simply, “Duet.”

“Duet” was released in 2014 but had its launch on May 1 at one of the newest additions to New York’s music venues, Subculture (45 Bleecker Street), where an appreciative audience had the pleasure of hearing the duo’s innovative music live.

“Duet” is actually a rarity. Although there are sheet music scores for piano and guitar, oddly, records of this kind of pairing are few and far between, and generally are older, and blues-based: for instance the duo of Tampa Red and Big Maceo. Guitar greats, such as Joe Pass and Jim Hall, sometimes worked as a team with a second musician, such as a second guitarist or a double-bassist, but not usually with a piano as a sole second. And the music in all of these instances was covered, not original.

It turns out these two stringed, rhythm instruments work beautifully together, and in the literal hands of Herman and Harkness, produce a rich and satisfying sound. Forgoing extended displays of virtuosity, the two have instead woven their technique together, creating a tapestry of unified virtuosic artistry. What’s more, the pieces are original and tunefully successful.

“Duet,” the eponymously named first cut on the CD is light, lyrical and classically grounded in its rhythm and aural effect. Similarly “A Major” has a sprightly baroque catch to it. “G Minor Swing” is just that – a toe-tapping, finger-snapping tune that happily invites you to get up and dance. There are meditative and evocative pieces in the mix as well: “Aloft” is a feather floating in a gentle breeze, while “Road Dance” and “6/8” allow for chilling out and kicking back, and “4 S.P.” is a ballad-like delight. Visual imagery is conjured by “Lost Princess,” a low-key piece of haunting, searching beauty; while “Checkered Shirt” can easily be married to a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton comedic short. Lastly, for Latin flavor, “Edwina” provides a spirited south-of-the-border beat.

One wonders why no one ever thought of this kind of dueting before, either in original or covered material. Herman and Harkness make it work, and with great success. More, please.

Ian Herman and Sean Harkness: Duet – Recorded live at Chung King Studios, New York by Ron Allaire. Mixed by Ron Allaire, Mastered by Chris Muth. http://cdbaby.com/cd/ianhermanseanharkness

Photo:Takako Suzuki Harkness