Jazz and Blues Report
Ron Weinstock October 01, 2018
Bob Arthurs and Steve Lamattina
Jazz It Up - Ukrainian Songs For Three Dads
Blue Griffin Recording
This collaboration between brass player Arthurs and guitarist Lamattina came from a suggestion from their producer Irena Portenko, who is Ukrainian, to record some popular Ukrainian folk melodies. This is apparently the third such collaboration between Arthurs and Lamattina who are ("were" B.A.) both on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY. Both also have active playing careers. This is an album of bright, sometimes wistful, melodically oriented music as they adapt, state the musical theme and then add embellishments to the various folk songs here. Arthurs plays primarily in lower and middle range while Lamattina chords in accompanying him while taking lyrically rooted single note solos as on the opening “Blackthorn is in Blossom.” “Marigolds My Mother Planted” opens with a plaintive quality to Arthurs’ muted trumpet with Lamattina’s deliberate accompaniment and the bittersweet trumpet tone remains even as there is a shift to a slightly brisker tempo. The performance is lovely as is the subsequent selection “My Dear Mother” with more spare trumpet lending perhaps a nostalgic flavor that Arthurs enhances with his wordless vocal. In contrast there is a bit of playfulness on “Hutzel Girl Ksenia,” with overdubbed brass.
Arthurs sings in Ukrainian on “Moon in the Sky,” and several other songs including “Walking Around the Garden.” His simple singing has a definite charm. His vocals and trumpet solos are effectively supported by Lamattina, while “Kyiv Waltz” is appealing with Arthurs’ slightly crusty-sounding flugelhorn. “Why Haven’t You Come” is a short piece with a wordless vocal and some stately played trumpet and guitar. The album closes with an Arthurs original “Blues For Ukraine,” with a vocal in English with lyrics that hints about the troubles in the Ukraine but that the land is lovely and people are so fair. It is briskly played and has a some fine guitar. This is a most charming recording. There is much love of the songs evident in the performances that are performed with restraint perhaps, but also with much feeling.
Jazz and Blues Report October, 2018
Jonathan Widran May 04, 2018
May 14, 2018
Don’t let the subtitle of this unique dual album by world renowned jazz trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve LaMattina make you think this is an ethnic album best enjoyed by those of Ukranian heritage The tunes are traditional pieces from that culture, which is the background of producer Irena Portenko, who commissioned the duo. Yet their graceful, lyrical interaction, sense of strut and swing and skilled interplay of melody and harmony beautifully transcend the source material.
There’s an appealing old-timeyness in the recording as well that makes us feel we are time traveling to a beautiful village to imagine just how these songs first took flight. And for the truly adventurous listener, Arthur even sings a few pieces in the native tongue.
Though not conceived as part of a literal series, Jazz It Up! is a lovely bookend to the duo’s two previous, more mainstream recordings, Jazz For Svetlana and Jazz for Molly. A fresh way to discover two excellent jazz musicians at the top of their game!
Michael Tucker July 01, 2018
Forty-two minutes or so of delightful, richly human fare from fine musicians who have recorded at least a couple of previous duo sessions together. The playing is impeccable, as warm and crisply swinging as it is mellow and reflective, perfectly in tune with the bitter sweet material. LaMattina studied with Barry Galbraith and displays all the elegance, intelligence and warmth one might expect to flow from such an association. Arthurs' clarity of (expressive) tone is enhanced by fetching vocals on five of the eleven tracks, a stand-out being the concluding medium groove Blues for Ukraine.
O's Place Jazz Newsletter
D. Oscar Groomes October 30, 2018
Bob Arthurs & Steve Lamattina - Jazz It Up 3/2
O's Notes: Bob Arthurs plays trumpet, flugelhorn and sings on several selections. Steve Lamattina plays guitar. They reunite as a duo for another recording in the Jazz It Up series. Ukrainian Songs for Three Dads is a collection of ten Ukrainian folk songs along with “Blues for Ukraine” written by Arthurs. They transform the music into light jazz, prime for the cocktail hour. The music has a European street cafe feeling with strong musical performances.
D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Newsletter
P.O. Box 38430
Charlotte, NC 28278
Dee Dee McNeil May 04, 2018
JAZZIN’ IT UP
By Dee Dee McNeil/Jazz Journalist
BOB ARTHURS – “JAZZ IT UP! UKRAINIAN SONGS FOR THREE DADS”
Blue Griffin Recording
Bob Arthurs, trumpet/vocals; Steve Lamattina, guitar.
The concept of this production is simple. Two musicians, Bob Arthurs and Steve Lamattina, were approached by a Ukrainian record producer, Irena Portenko, and asked if they would consider using their duo instrumentation to record popular Ukrainian songs with jazzy arrangements. The producer named the project for her father, her uncle and her daughter’s dad. Thus, the title, “Jazz It Up – Ukrainian Songs for Three Dads.” The result is a fresh perspective on traditional folk songs from the Ukraine.
Bob Arthur is a jazz trumpeter, a vocalist, band leader and recording artist. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, New York for over three decades. This CD is his fourth release as a leader. Previously he released an album where he sang in Ukrainian. He sings on this CD also, featured on “Moon in the sky,” and “Walking Around the Garden,” once again singing in the language of the Ukraine. Steve LaMattina served on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester until 2006. So, I assume that he and Bob Arthurs are old friends and teaching mates. His proficiency on guitar is obvious, as he strums the rhythm and keeps the time steady. LaMattina is the only instrument supporting Arthurs’ horn and vocalization. The duo production is simplistic, but effective. This is a fine introduction to Ukrainian folk music, all jazzed up with a newly painted face.
Vittorio Lo Conte April 24, 2018
By Vittorio Lo Conte
The trumpeter Bob Arthurs, here and there also as a singer and guitarist Steve Lamattina are two veterans of jazz mainstreaam who have played and recorded with many of the great genre, from Lee Konitz to Ted Brown. The size of the duo seems perfect for them, already practiced years ago for a standard album dedicated to a classical pianist named Svetlana. This time they chose instead of folk music originating in Ukraine and they are interpreted with warmth and with the experience of money-makers. Arthurs uses the mutes on his instrument to give a personal touch to the melodies while Lamattina has his own guitar sound, apart from the remarkable ability to re-harmonize the simple melodies. It comes out a very listenable album, with performances full of emotions despite the minimalist training. The two let themselves be carried away, and with them the listeners, from the sweetness of the melodies, which we imagine performed on traditional instruments such as the accordion or the violin. There is also a Blues for Ukraine, which closes the album, in which Arthurs takes the solo trumpet and sings "Ukraine we love you, but the way you are treated make us feel so blue".
Leonid Auskern March 27, 2018
Bob Arthurs / Steve LaMattina - Jazz It Up! Ukrainian Songs for Three Dads
Дискография опытнейшего американского трубача Боба Артурса прирастает благодаря плодотворным контактам с диаспорой с постсоветского пространства. Началось все пять лет назад с альбома, записанного Артурсом для своих друзей Светланы и Юрия Гороховичей. Точнее, по просьбе Юрия был сделан подарок для его жены Светланы. Он так и назывался - Jazz for Svetlana (обзор этого альбома можно найти на сайте). В 2017 году появился еще один альбом из серии Jazz for… - на этот раз Jazz for Molly. А затем, впечатленная этими работами, к Артурсу обратилась американка с крепкими украинскими корнями Ирина Портенко, предложившая записать альбом из популярных украинских песен в джазовой обработке. Как рассказывает сам Боб, чем дольше он вместе со своим партнером по упомянутым здесь проектам гитаристом Стивом ЛаМаттиной слушал присланные Ириной записи, тем больше ему нравилась эта идея. И не удивительно – мелодичность и лиризм украинского фольклора на постсоветском пространстве общеизвестна. Так родился проект Jazz It Up! Ukrainian Songs for Three Dads, продюсерами которого стали Ирина Портенко, ее дочь Анастасия Глазунова и Сергей Квитко, взявший на себя также функции звукоинженера альбома, записанного в конце октября 2017 года.
Dodie Miller-Gould March 22, 2018
Bob Arthurs has a five-decade history as a musician. He plays flugelhorn and trumpet. He has teamed up with guitarist Steve LaMattina to record albums in a series called “Jazz For…” The latest of which is “Jazz For Three Dads.”
The three dads that serve as the impetus for the current release are related to the musicians’ producer, Irena Portenko. She wanted to know if the duo could put a jazz spin on traditional Ukrainian music. Portenko dedicated the music on the album to her father, her uncle, and her daughter’s dad, thus the three dads. Included in the dedications, too, is the producer’s homeland of Ukraine. The result is jazz with a touch of Eastern Europe. The songs are gentle, distinct, and well-crafted. The unexpected soundscape is created by the use of brass with the guitar. The two instrument groups are unexpected in the way they play against each other, and the result is effective, even if listeners are not familiar with Ukrainian music.
About Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina
Bob Arthurs’ long history as a musician has been developed by playing iconic jazz clubs in New York City and around the world. He played trumpet, functioned as a bandleader, and was a vocalist from his early years until the present. In addition to his work as a professional musician, Arthurs worked as an educator. He worked as a trumpet teacher and music educator at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, New York for three decades. “Jazz It Up! Ukrainian Songs for Three Dads” is his fourth album as a leader, but the first one in which he sings in Ukrainian.
Steve LaMattina studied jazz guitar with legendary guitarist Barry Galbraith. He, like Arthurs, also served on the faculty of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, New York. Prior to “Jazz It Up,” LaMattina recorded “Shades of Brown,” with saxophonist Ted Brown, and bassist Dennis Irwin.
“Jazz It Up!” by Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina
“Blackthorn is in Blossom” by Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina
Despite the Ukrainian inspiration for this song, it sounds like classic New York jazz. The guitar has a pleasant, hollow sound, and plays against the horn’s triplets to create a gentle up and down feel.
Movement is inherent to the piece. That up and down feel lends itself to the way waltzing dancers might move. However, when listeners consider that the basis for the song is Ukrainian folk music, after a minute or so, the track does sound European. Audiences get the idea of how the song could have evolved into jazz. Without knowing the original, the means of seeing exactly where the two forms connect and intersect can be difficult to access. Most listeners are left with enjoying the song for what they hear when it plays. And that is quite a bit.
“Moon in the Sky” by Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina
Here, Arthurs sings in Ukrainian. The song, though, does sound like “Blackthorn is in Blossom.” But, it does have a guitar-only soundscape. LaMattina’s skill is evident. Sometimes, it is difficult for string players of various sort to fill up the soundscape with a single representative of an instrument group.
Arthurs’ singing sounds appropriate for the piece. Even though both this song and “Blackthorn” start out similarly, they are different, if for nothing else but the singing and ultimately the instrumentation.
“Blues for Ukraine” by Bob Arthurs and Steve LaMattina
The soundscape is bluesy, which is no easy feat for two instruments as different guitar and trumpet and a voice. Arthurs sings in English, but his pronunciation of “Ukraine” as You-Cry-EEn-ah gives the song an authentic touch.
The song functions as a lament for the way the country is treated and looked upon by others. It describes the nation’s beauty and details the narrator’s love for Ukraine.
The lyrics kind of bookend the song, so most of the track is an instrumental. That the blues feel actually comes through in the song is an accomplishment, because just reading the title, it is almost impossible to predict how successfully how a song will go.
Arthurs and LaMattina pull off mixing jazz and Ukrainian traditional songs. The unconventional approach yields a soundscape marked by gently rollicking instrumentation.
Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Dick Metcalf March 21, 2018
Bob Arthurs and Steve Lamattina Ukranian folk jazz Bob Arthurs and Steve Lamattina – JAZZ IT UP: What an absolutely cool jazz album… Steve’s masterful guitar work is thoroughly complimented by Bob’s excellent trumpet/flugelhorn and vocal dexterity… just listen to songs like “Marigolds, that my Mother Planted” to get an idea of how well they perform together.
Truth be told, this is the first time I’ve heard Ukranian folk music in jazz mode, and I can tell you that it’s a most pleasurable experience, whether you’re a novice or seasoned listener… you’re going to love Bob’s vocal on “Moon In The Sky” just as much as I did… though I don’t know the words being spoken, it’s easy to hear the emotion oozing forth… laid-back & superb pacing from the players make the tune a clear winner!
For their next outing, I’d definitely recommend a LIVE video of a couple of the songs… they do have a channel that you can SUBSCRIBE to, of course… there’s no question that a live vid of tunes like “My Dear Mother” would be perfect for iPhone viewing.
My personal favorite of the eleven songs offered up is the closer, “Blues for Ukraine“… again, they’ve got the pacing down solid, and you can bet I’ll be listening to this great song over & over again. I give this fine duo a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97 for this most enjoyable album. Get more information at Bob’s website. Rotcod Zzaj
Chris Spector March 04, 2018
BOB ARTHURS & STEVE LAMATTINA/Jazz It Up-Ukrainian Songs for 3 Dads: Talk about sort of coloring outside the lines, this duo took up the gauntlet when challenged by a producer that wanted them to tackle traditional Ukie songs. They rose to the challenge but in the end it's a jazzy take on ethnic music that will serve a purpose for those who miss the homeland. Played with a righteous, inherent sadness that goes with the territory, this duo knows the way but not everyone will feel comfortable following.