Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina – Jazz for Svetlana (2013)

Perhaps the best birthday present a woman named Svetlana has ever received, Jazz for Svetlana is what happens when two musicians gather to lay something down without expectations.

Featuring trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve LaMattina, this disc found its start as a birthday gift for producer Yuri Gorokhovich’s wife. A big fan of the two musicians, Svetlana apparently really dug the idea of putting them in a duo setting without any accompanying rhythm. Gorokhovich gave the first CD to his wife, who loved it, and left the rest up to LaMattina and Arthurs promote and sell as they wished.

And to think, all I got for my last birthday was a lousy gift card …

Jazz for Svetlana captures the impulse and one-take bliss that can come when two fine players get together. It also features some risk-taking, namely in the form of Arthurs’ singing, and moves malleably through a good mix of originals and well-known tunes.

Arthurs’ trumpet-playing comes ensconced in 40 years of experience. He’s worked with the likes of Lee Konitz, Warren Vache, Chuck Wayne, and Warne Marsh. He’s also the founding member of the Tristan Quartet, whose Notes from the Underground is out now on Zinnia Records.

LaMattina is a confident guitar player and protégé of Barry Galbraith. He is planted firmly in the New York scene and has a few CDs under his belt, including Cocktails for Three featuring Carmen Leggio.

Together, Arthurs and LaMattina draw on their respective backgrounds but come together in confident conversation. The trumpeter’s bold, colourful lines draw pieces like Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” into full blush, while LaMattina is responsible for accompaniment, rhythmic forces and lithe soloing.

Two original pieces by Arthurs show his depth as a composer, with the head-swaying “Lonnie’s Blues” probing deep with a stripped-down, clever groove. The patience of the players is also striking, with the temptation to overstuff the yarn resisted in favor of lean brass and velvety plucking.

Jazz for Svetlana closes on a fun note with “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a cheeky piece of work detailed by a very busy LaMattina and Arthurs’ strutting, confident lines.

This is a unique recording, a birthday present for the ages that features the work of two confident, intuitive players. LaMattina and Arthurs have given Svetlana something special. Thank goodness she’s willing to share.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.