The story behind Jazz for Svetlana, the duo album from trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve Lamattina, is kind of romantic. Arthurs and Lamattina have been playing together for some 10 years, and as Arthurs tells it, Svetlana Gorokhovich, a classical pianist in her own right, loved listening to them play as a duo. She kept telling her husband Yuri how wonderful their music was, and one day Yuri calls and announces that he would like to produce a duo album as a gift for Svetlana’s birthday. Jazz for Svetlana is the result.
There aren’t too many albums jazz or otherwise that feature a trumpet and guitar duo, and it is easy to understand why. One can imagine how quickly the trumpet could overpower the guitar. It is to the credit of both of these outstanding musicians that they do not let that happen. Their work together is more interested in the totality of their sound than in individual pyrotechnics. They complement each other admirably. It is easy to understand why Svetlana so admired their work. The album says a lot for unusual combinations, at least unusual combinations in the right hands.
The album’s nine tracks offer a nice selection of tunes from the Great American Songbook, a jazz classic or two and a couple of Arthurs’ originals. It opens with Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean.” The sweet tones of the trumpet are matched by the sensitivity of the guitar work. This is followed by the classic “All of Me” with the first of two vocals from Arthurs. He has a pleasant voice and adds some interesting phrasing, but my own preference is for his trumpet playing. The other vocal is on the lesser known Van Heusen-Mercer classic tune, “I Thought About You.”
They do two Dizzy Gillespie compositions—”Birk’s Works” and a really nice romp through “A Night in Tunisia.” This last one has some swinging guitar work from Lamattina. “Lonnie’s Blues,” another swinger, and “Stellar Probe” are the two Arthurs originals. Both showcase the duo’s compatibility and are among the album’s highlights. They end with a bluesy version of “Melancholy Serenade” and a hot take on “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
Lamattina and Arthurs may not be household names, but they sure can play. While Jazz for Svetlana may have begun as a present for one fan, it turns out it’s a real gift for all of us fans of fine jazz played with sensitivity and passion.