Face Forward Jeremy

Jeremy Pelt
Face Forward, Jeremy
HighNote ***1/2
Trumpeter Pelt’s quintet with JD Allen on tenor saxophone, Danny Grissett on piano, the late Dwayne Burno on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums was a formidable unit. And while comparisons are invidious Pelt set the bar so high with that unit that it takes a deep breath (and yes some mourning) and adjustment to come to terms with his still fairly new set-up.

It’s the sign of a true artist who moves on so that needs to be said first of all. Recorded in September in Brooklyn Pelt has injected air and space into this “electric” band, David Bryant on Fender Rhodes in places one of the significant factors, with Chris Smith on tasty Marcus Miller-like electric bass. The album takes its time to unfold and it’s only by the end of ‘Stars Are Free’ Bryant’s stabbing chords, Smith’s probing bass solo and an intriguing invisible momentum ratcheting up that there’s a clearing. Water and Earth was the new quintet’s first tentative steps and there’s development here, fine tunes tumbling out particularly in the very hip 1960s vintage Blue Note-esque ‘Glimpse’, as well as loads of floaty echo elsewhere part of Pelt’s recalibrated sound to suit the idiom on the slower numbers and a veritable thunder from drummer Dana Hawkins, a worthy successor to Gerald Cleaver. Pelt is only 37 but already a heavyweight figure of considerable artistry on the competitive hard bop scene coming out of the Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan sound dimension. Newcomer Roxy Coss is a name to watch and the New York scene Seattle saxophonist makes a range of velvety interjections that adds to the quintet’s distinctive crush of harmonies (and contributes the tune ‘The Calm Before the Storm’), the guest vocals, harp and cello on a few tracks also adding to the chamber lushness of the sound in the right places. Give Face Forward, Jeremy a chance, that is if you’re looking for a high octane blast from the start as you won’t find it here. You might not get it at first, but by the time ‘Princess Charlie’ fades out and the album settles the fascinating new pluralistic direction unveils itself warts and all. Milton Suggs’ guest vocal at the end on 'Verse' is also quite a moment even if it's a case of blink and you’ll be in danger of missing the next Gregory Porter.
Released on 21 January