|Jeremy Pelt photo by Sally Pritchard|
When a new album comes out from an artist that you have listened to and appreciated, it is always a moment of anticipation when you play the first cut and see if it holds up to your expectations. I have been a fan of Jeremy Pelt’s playing for quite some time and when the opening notes of the lead off song “Baswald’s Place,” from Pelt's latest # Jive Cuture, hit my ears I knew I was in for a treat. Pelt has a beautiful tone and his attack is precise and piquant. The interplay with the superbly swinging Billy Drummond on drums is a lesson in synchronous dynamism and of course the ever present foundation of the swing is laid down to perfection by the inimitable Ron Carter on bass.
|Jeremy Pelt's #Jive Culture High Note # HCD7285|
It is the opportunity to play with the great bassist Carter that made this date all the more special for Pelt. The mutual respect these two have is on brilliant display on Carter’s “Einbahnstrasse” a down home blues that features a potent solo by Carter and some lyrically responsive trumpet playing by Pelt. The song is the perfect vehicle for the group to simply strut its ability to swing.
On Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing,” Pelt’s beautifully Chet Baker-like solo floats on Drummond’s steady cymbal-driven beat and Carter’s full bodied, roaming bass lines. Pianist Danny Grissett comps to perfection behind Pelt before taking a gorgeous solo where he elegantly ventures off into his own extrapolation of the melody. It seems that the inclusion of the venerable Carter into the group has elevated the maturity level of all the players on this date, as they each play within the song to great effect.
The Dave Grusin/ Allan Bergman ballad “A Love Like Ours” is perhaps the piece de re.sis.tance of the entire album. This achingly beautiful song features Pelt’s lone voice at his most lyrically emotive, with the band playing behind him in a brilliant display of subtle complimentary playing at its finest. It doesn’t get much better than this.
As if to demarcate a change in approach, Drummond’s solo rolling drums open the second part of this album for almost two minutes before the group gets into the main theme of Pelt’s composition “The Haunting.” Pelt’s trumpet wanders around the core of the melody, often modulating the level of intensity with his horn as the band plays on. Carter is particularly active in his playing, peppering the loose swing provided by Drummond with a variety of accented notes and bends. Grissett plays an equally elusive solo.
The deceptively cadenced “Rhapsody” features a syncopated rhythmic vamp that Drummond and Carter produce in conjunction with the ethereal sounds of Grissett on Fender Rhodes. Pelt uses this throbbing groove to establish a floating, tension-building trumpet solo that escalates the drama in the song. Through a series of increasingly urgent sounds, Pelt creats the illusion of entering into the unknown until the song fades out into oblivion at the coda.
Opening with an unaccompanied solo piano introduction by Grissett that sets the alluring mood of “Akua,” is a slow, sauntering ballad, whose repeating vamp imprints in your brain long after you leave it. The film noir-like theme features Pelt’s poignantly muted trumpet and Grissett’s pensive piano work. Carter’s walking bass meanders with creative two-step in-fills that add to the feel of this sultry song.
The final song of the cd is another Pelt original titled “Desire,” an upbeat, loosely structured romp where the rhythm is turbulently played by Drummond creating a sense of unease. that is punctuated by Carter’s roving bass. Grissett and Pelt are both featured playing on the repeating vamp which is the armature around which they base their improvisational ideas. Grissett ventures off into unpredictable grounds on his solo before returning to the theme. Pelt is equally off to the wilderness with his probing trumpet only occasionally touching on the theme in some remote way before magically resolving back to it before the finale.
With #Jive Culture Jeremy Pelt has achieved that rare plateau where hipness meets maturity in one totally satisfying album.