Still on the shy side of thirty, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has already established quite a name for himself, building an impressive body of work collaborating with artists including Ralph Peterson, the Mingus Big Band, and Wayne Shorter. Winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll for Rising Star on trumpet two years running, as well as the Jazz Journalist Association's award for one of the Best Emerging Stars, he's developed remarkable cachet in record time.
With the exception of Close to My Heart, which, despite being a "with strings record, still bucked convention by virtue of material choices, his previous albums ('02's Profile and '03's Insight) have demonstrated a surprisingly astute neo-bop composer in the making. As a player he's been a bit of a chameleona bit of Lee Morgan here, a little Freddie Hubbard thereand so the only real question is: will the real Jeremy Pelt please stand up?
In the liner notes to his latest release, Pelt differentiates between having a sound and an identity. It may be a subtle distinction, but it's one that he exploits to full advantage on Identity, an album that covers surprisingly broad territory yet manages to define a musical congruity that links his various concerns. In some ways, he's the trumpet equivalent of another young player, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, but the difference is that while Harris explores various aspects of his musical identity on separate albums, Pelt has put them all out for show on one.
Pelt augments his recently-formed quartet with keyboardist Frank LoCrasto, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Eric McPherson by adding vibraphonist Warren Wolf, guitarist Mike Moreno, and woodwind player Myron Walden on selected tracks. In doing so he acquires an expansive palette, allowing him to veer from the swinging neo-bop of "Re-Invention to the hypnotically insistent pulse of "Scorpio." With Pelt's electronically treated trumpet, Walden's bass clarinet, Moreno's delayed guitar, and LoCrasto's army of keyboards, "Scorpio" finds an intriguing middle ground between the trance-inducing openness of Miles Davis' In a Silent Way and the denser textures of Bitches Brew, all the while avoiding the angularity that made the latter such a challenging listen for jazz purists.
The whole album, in fact, feels like a chronological lesson in Davis' evolution from the mid '60s through to the early '70s. However, with Pelt's group never digging into the kind of rock rhythms that would ultimately obsess Miles, Identity never loses site of its inherent jazziness. Pelt adds Miles as a clear influence through his warm tendency to favour the midrange of his instrument, but while Miles' voice shifted considerably through the period in questionin no small part due simply to the passage of timePelt's voice is completely consistent throughout the evolution of Identity.
There's a purity about Identity that supposes how Miles might have evolved had he developed an interest in the textural possibilities of electric instruments, without the aggression and density of rock and roll. And that, perhaps, is the personal identity Pelt refers to, one which will undoubtedly continue to distinguish him on future projects.
Personnel: Jeremy Pelt: trumpet, flugelhorn, effects; Frank LoCrasto: piano, electric piano, organ,
synthesizer, effects; Vicente Archer: bass; Eric McPherson: drums. With Mike Moreno:
guitar; Warren Wolf: vibraphone; Myron Walden: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet.