Jeremy Pelt: From Classical, Perhaps One Day to Classic
“ For me, when I made that decision that I'm going to be a musician, this is all I do. This is what I've wanted to do. ”
Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, all of 28 years old, with a commitment to music and a world of talent, appears to have a bright future. He is creative and his trumpet work is both facile and strong-toned. He's willing to work hard and keep developing.
How is it he could almost be pigeonholed into being "soft" because of one album done with a background of strings?
He says that did happen to him for a bit, but hopefully not for long because his new Max Jazz release Identity is out and it is helping to re-establish just what the title says. The music that comes out of Pelt's horn is who he is, background notwithstanding. And the new disk and new band are smoking.
Pelt's Close to My Heart, out in 2003, is an exquisite disk. But far from the sum total of what he is capable of doing. After all, since 1998 when Pelt started making the scene in New York City, he's played with venerable groups like the Mingus orchestra and with folks like Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Charlie Persip, Frank Foster, Ravi Coltrane, Winard Harper, Ralph Peterson, Lonnie Plaxico, Nancy Wilson and onward. Charlie Parker did an album with strings for something differenta different canvas to paint onas did many others. Artists like to experience different things and see where it takes them.
Close to My Heart was his third release as a leader, and the California native enjoyed the trip. But even the strings record got an odd reception at times.
"The younger audience, that maybe isn't as mature in their musicality as they will be. Those are the types of people that were like, 'Oh man. What is this soft stuff with strings?' And you have the reaction from the older crowd, 30 or 40; they dig it because it sounds jazzy. Then you have the reaction from folks like my mother, that generation, that just loves that type of music," says Pelt.
"Then you have critics that love it and critics that, for some reason that hasn't been discussed, hate the inclusion of strings. For some wild reason they see it as you selling out because you added strings to your music. Meanwhile, I haven't gotten any richer off Close to My Heart, believe me."
He performed Close to My Heart in a lot of venues and it had a following. But he told his record label he was done with the experiment. It was about two years before Identity came out.
"I didn't want to be pigeonholed in a certain way, with people saying this is the guy playing with strings," he says. The music played well in London, and as his working band continued in other venues, it got hotter and started to morph, as good jazz music and good bands will do.
Then in July, the group played a pre-CD release party at New York City' Jazz Standard, where he had twice appeared with strings, both well received. "So I came back in there in July and brought the new band in there. The band has already evolved into a different sounding thing than the CD, in a lot of ways. We're still playing the same songs, but we've changed them around a lot. Some songs are a lot more intense. You play in a band long enough and you're working, they're bound to get that way.
"The first and second night at the Standard were, like: Wow. I didn't think anybody dug it. It was an older kind of crowd. 'OK, Jeremy's got a new one out. Let's hope it's like Close to My Heart.' Obviously, it's not like that. They were pretty much stunned," he says with hearty, knowing laugh. "Which was a bummer. Then the audiences started to get a little bit more hip and clapping. We were doing some borderline rock stuff at times. The first audience, there wasn't a single amount of applause until the very end of the set. And that was forced. They had to do something because we were going off the stage," he chuckles.
"That's why we need radio play, so people know what they're coming to hear. At least the arena of what they'll be hearing when they come and see the show."
What the audience will hear is smoking music, from the jazz tradition, but not afraid to veer away. It's engaging and should thrill jazz fans. It's unlikely anyone could be stereotyped at the age of 28 with only one recording with strings. But in today's world, packaging is common and people sometimes jump to conclusions. The only conclusion to be reached now is that Pelt is one of the finest young trumpeters on the scene and his band is a cooker.
The music on Identity also comes from Pelt's pen, which shows he's not just a trumpet player.
"I'm always composing. Just the act of improvisation is spontaneous composition," says Pelt. "But writing songs? I do it all the time. It's not a task. There are people, I suppose, that can sit at a desk and write something. But that's not how I operate. It just pops in my head and then I write it down, wherever I'm at. It's not like I have two hours set aside to just compose."