Bob Arthurs & Steve Lamattina – Jazz for Svetlana – self, 52:10 ***1/2:
(Bob Arthurs – trumpet, vocals (tracks 2, 4); Steve Lamattina – guitar)
Some men bestow flowers on their wife’s birthday. Some guys take their betrothed to a fancy restaurant. But Yuri Gorokhovitch, a good friend of trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve Lamattina, decided to give his wife, Svetlana, something more unique. Yuri told Arthurs and Lamattina he wanted to produce a duet album of the two artists’ performances, so Yuri could hand the first CD to his spouse as a birthday present, since she is an admirer of Lamattina and Arthurs’ music. After that memorable offering, Arthurs and Lamattina could then promote or sell the record. Thus, the romantic, beautiful birthday bequest, appropriately entitled Jazz for Svetlana, is now a gift to all jazz fans.
The self-released, 52-minute, nine-track collection is a straightforward affair: just guitar and trumpet. Single takes. No do-overs or overdubs, with mellow arrangements which will appeal to cool jazz fans who favor softened accents. Jazz for Svetlana also includes two songs which mark Arthurs’ vocal debut. The understated material features two Arthurs’ originals, and seven covers from the jazz canon and the Great American Songbook. Arthurs and Lamattina have played together off and on for about a decade. Arthurs has also led his own groups and has worked with jazz cats such as Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Bucky Pizzarelli and several others. There are only a few examples of trumpet/guitar excursions (Stan Kenton’s “Invention for Guitar and Trumpet” comes to mind), and the approach takes a concentrated skill. Arthurs brings the brass tone down a couple degrees so he never oversteps the guitar (which also handles the rhythmic foundation). This also has the result of elevating Arthurs’ sensitivity on each melodic line. Arthurs is an unobtrusive player, someone who uses unassuming phrases and notes which have the brevity of haiku: implicit and concise musical ideas which reveal melody or harmony without overreaching. This is succinctly heard on two Dizzy Gillespie renditions: a nicely swinging version of “Birk’s Works,” where Arthurs’ attractive trumpet quality conjures Harry “Sweets” Edison, while Lamattina evokes Charlie Byrd’s temperament. The most upbeat moment is a brisk, nearly eight-minute run-through “Night in Tunisia,” which includes swinging guitar from Lamattina and some downright tasty soloing from Arthurs.
At times, Arthurs also utilizes a muted trumpet, which supplies a moody mannerism, which is notable when the twosome redoes Jackie Gleason’s easy listening hit “Melancholy Serenade,” with a moderate to slow tempo, and a slightly conducive and relaxing swing. Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” has a similar setting; the two musicians share an innate melodicism and Arthurs furnishes a sympathetic but finely varied improvisational space. Arthurs discloses another side to his musical personality on “All of Me” and Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer’s “I Thought About You,” where he sings, employing a congenial but somewhat tapered voice: he does not have much range, but his vocals fit in with the album’s overall atmosphere and he complements his trumpet sound. Arthurs’ two originals are pleasing performances. “Lonnie’s Blues,” rather than being a downcast blues, has a bright and fluent slant, where Arthurs stretches up to his instrument’s higher register. “Stellar Probe” establishes a sprightly pace and over the course of seven minutes, both Lamattina and Arthurs demonstrate their mettle: Lamattina in particular breaks out some steadfast soloing.
Jazz for Svetlana has a live feel throughout, including room ambiance and occasional noise as one or both players adjust a chair or do something else. This has both the effect of hearing something akin to a demo recording, and providing a “you are there” impression. The obvious low budget, however, does not detract from enjoying this friendly and familiar music.
TrackList: How Deep Is the Ocean; All of Me; Birk’s Works; I Thought about You; Night in Tunisia; Lonnie’s Blues; Stellar Probe; Melancholy Serenade; Sweet Georgia Brown