Theoretically, if you were to attempt to fit trumpeter Bob Arthurs into one of those categories jazz writers love so well, he would be a “cool” trumpeter. Bob has played alongside Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Sal Mosca, Ted Brown, Warren Vache, Larry Coryell, Bucky Pizzarelli, Chuck Wayne, Tal Farlow, and many others. He knows and likes the music of Lennie Tristano.
I can envision some of you turning over the leaf and choosing another page, to paraphrase Chaucer; others might be going to another room to, shall we say, put on a sweater.
But be calm: frigidity is not on the menu, for Bob is an appealing warm trumpeter.
He doesn’t look back to the Thirties (more to the Fifties) but his approach is gently melodic rather than a clinical exploration of extended harmonies, and although he is on good terms with sixteenth and thirty-second notes, he does not careen through a chorus in the manner of virtuosic beboppers.
In fact, when I was listening to Bob a few nights ago at Somethin’ Jazz, leading a quintet that featured the esteemed tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, it clicked into my head. A resemblance — not an imitation, but a shading.
I know that some musicians dislike being compared to the great dead figures, and I understand that: we all, in Yeats’ words, want to be loved for ourselves alone, but I took a chance and said to Bob, “I just realized. If Ted is Lester Young, his own version of Lester, then you are Harry Edison. Perhaps?” And Bob looked pleased and said I had given him a great compliment. I meant it. Not the beep-beep-beep self-parodying Sweets, but the agile swinger, the to-the-point melodic player whose lines had the snap of epigrams.
You will hear and see more from that evening at Somethin’ Jazz.
But I have something more tangible for JAZZ LIVES — an actual compact disc of an intimate jazz session — trumpet and guitar and two vocals — that is sweet, to the point, and very rewarding.
Without being in the least “antique” or “repertory,” Bob and guitarist Steve LaMattina create wonderful jazz that is reminiscent of a Sweets Edison – Charlie Byrd record date for Norman Granz or Carl Jefferson. Easy, melodic, dense with feeling but not with flurries — nothing artificial. The songs are easy medium-tempo explorations . . . but no one will doze off: HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN / ALL OF ME* / BIRKS’ WORKS / I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU* / NIGHT IN TUNISIA / LONNIE’S BLUES / STELLAR PROBE / MELANCHOLY SERENADE / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN. Bob plays softly but with intensity (often muted) and Steve provides swinging supportive counterpoint. And his singing on two numbers is easy, heartfelt, inventive without being showy: musicians who put down their horns often are wonderful singers (Zoot Sims walking through I CAN’T GET STARTED, for one) and Bob fits right in.
And the story behind the CD is fittingly sweet. I’ll let Bob tell it:
The making of our new album, “Jazz for Svetlana,” was a labor of love. The guitarist Steve LaMattina and I have been playing together off and on for about ten years. Our good friend Svetlana, who is a wonderful classical pianist, really loved hearing Steve and I play as a duo. She also kept telling her husband Yuri how much she loved our music. Yuri decided to give her a very special birthday present. He called me one day and said that he would like to produce a duo album of Steve and myself. All he wanted out of it was the first CD to give to Svetlana for her birthday. After that he said we could promote and sell the album wherever and however we wanted. So here we are. The CD has been well received by everyone who got an advance copy. It was a pleasure to record, and I’m happy to say that Svetlana loved her birthday present.
A present by a loving husband to his musical wife turns out to be a substantial present to us — one that won’t be worn out in a year.
Here is Bob’s website, with the smiling fellow greeting you. At the top left, you can click on the appropriate icon and hear some music, so you will know I am not inventing what is not there.
And here is the link to CD Baby to hear brief excerpts from the songs and — I hope — purchase the CD.
May your happiness increase.