Jeremy Pelt: From Classical, Perhaps One Day to Classic
Pelt is the sole producer this time, though he considers himself the "silent producer" of his three other albums. The producers before "didn't know what the music was going to sound like . . . This is the first time it's actually come to the forefront that I'm the one producing."
Though young, the trumpeter didn't listen much to the music of the day: R&B and rap. It wasn't Duke Ellington either. He may have looked hip with his walkman and headphones, but the music jumping through to his ears was classical music. While he appreciates some of the classic soul music, Pelt says most of today's product is inferior, and he has disdain for many of the here-today/gone-tomorrow bands who were in the business to earn a quick buck.
That goes against the grain for Pelt. He is a dedicated musician and doesn't take the task lightly. His horn would sound otherwise if he did. It is the sound of a creative artist, exploring and honing his craft at the same time.
"I hate hearing musicians and actors say, 'Eventually, I'm going to drop out of the game all together and do something else.' 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. It makes you question whether their heart's in it."
"They say, 'We're looking for a hook.' Hook basically means money," he continues. "So every time you turn on a record, they have some lame-ass hook that's going to be the hook for the year, then they're going to fall off the face of the earth. I wasn't really that into it."
He heard some jazz vocals from his mother's record collection growing uplike Billie Holliday and Dinah Washingtonbut stuck with classical music and training. In high school, there was no classical orchestra to join. So Pelt got into the jazz band, which became his first real introduction into the music.
"What kind of cemented it as something I wanted to do was listening to recordings," he says.
In 1991, early in his high school career, Miles Davis died. Davis would go on to be a huge influence, as with many musicians. But young Jeremy wasn't exactly sure why just yet.
"I remember when he died in '91. That was around my first day of high school. I knew the name Miles. Just like the name Dizzy Gillespie. Those kind of famous names that you know, but you ain't really checking it out. So one of the upperclassmen came in and said, 'I think we should play "So What" in remembrance of Miles.' So we go ahead and play it. After that, I went to the store to find "So What" and I picked up the first CD I'd seen. I didn't find Kind of Blue . I didn't ask anybody. I just said: OK, this one has 'So What' on it. It happened to be Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall from 1961. That's what completely blew me away.
The bandHank Mobley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb- -had changed the sound considerably by then, as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams would even more in years to come.
"And then I started to collect all the Miles. I eventually got Kind of Blue. You can listen to that record and not open your eyes, know what I mean? It's crazy like that."
Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Lee Morgan and Eddie Henderson are among other trumpets he listened to. As for the term "mainstream" jazz where those players came from, Pelt is respectful, but open. "I look for anything that's a learning experience and a challenging experience. I don't really like to deal with titles. Mainstream and this and that. It's whatever presents itself and how can I rise to the occasion."
He eventually went to Berklee School of Music in Boston. He had a fancy for film music scores (don't be surprised to see him do it one day). Upon graduation, the Big Apple called. He started gigging around, including checking out the Mingus band at the urging of fellow trumpeter Philip Harper, waiting for a chance to sit in and be noticed by Sue Mingus. He was.
Work grew steadier and his own recordings came to be, and Pelt is in a situation where he has attained a degree of critical success. Still, he knows there is a lot of work ahead.
Of the jazz scene, Pelt says "Recording-wise, there's only been a few people, that you can count on both hands, who have made a lot of money with a lucrative record contract. Most of the money that people are making is on the road. People are still attending clubs, though not in the droves they had been; jazz in particular. I think it's just one of those things that's a slope and it's going downhill. It has been for a while. But I think it will pick up once again. I do believe in it, but I'm forced to be positive about it."