Jeremy Pelt: A Man of Honor
AAJ: Maybe they are afraid of you.
JP: Well, I don't know about that. It's an interesting concept but I think everybody's got a stock. I'm not one of those people that walks around trying to figure out whose original, I'm just trying to play music. That's for people that don't have anything better to do. And the sad thing is that there are musicians that get caught up, some young cats, and even some older cats that should know better; they get caught up in a game that they shouldn't be in. So then they start going around thinking that they're original. Are you kidding me? And they start coming up with these silly ass theories because you know, people are starting to not listen and starting to act like they are smart. And they have acquired all this knowledge and come to these conclusions, all at the record age of 30, you know?
The thing is that if anybody wants to listen to what I do and have an opinion, there are close to a hundred records out there, and they are all completely different records. Like when you heard me with Jowee Omicil, you actually had the courage to dig deeper because that is not all that I do.
AAJ: And then there are things like "Scorpio"that's the fear factor, you do different things. Electric versus acoustic?
JP: My vision is to put different projects out there, why not? Dave Douglas got a bunch of bands. I feel like I just want to do stuff that is a representation of what I deal with when I am not playing what everybody is expecting me to play. In other words, if I am in New York and I am playing an experimental gig with some electric stuff, people might think that I just burst out of nowhere with that, when the truth is that we've been doing that stuff since 2002. That's why I named that record "Shock Value" (Max Jazz Records, 2007). So I mean, same thing with Nicholas Payton. A lot of people, especially writers, talked a lot when he came out with "Sonic Trance" (Warner Bros/Wea, 2003) and started to play with his electric band but he had been doing that for a while in New Orleans. So I guess I just mean to say that there is a lot of different things that we as musicians do, that might be different from the perception of what's out there, which is what writers focus on. When I did the electric band, it was a whole different pattern all together that I decided to do.
AAJ: So if you had to choose, would you go acoustic or would you go electric?
JP: I guess I'd choose...It's a hard question...But yeah, I guess I would choose acoustic just because that's the music that drew me in first, and that's what I always come back to and it's a good feeling to come back to it.
AAJ: What makes you feel more like you?
JP: Both of them, you know why? 'Cause I'm playing the same shit [laughs]. I'm playing the same whenever I play but there'll be some songs that obviously if I play them with the electric band you are going to hear some different textures, as far as the band is concerned but I'm still playing the same solos. It's all me, even if it's going through a processor.
AAJ: What makes Jeremy Pelt different?
JP: What makes Jeremy Pelt different? Aahhh...different from anybody else? Well, I'm just me. I'm definitely not of the competitive variety. That could be a "two-fault question" because you could say what makes Jeremy Pelt different from the whole jazz scene, or from my immediate generation of players around me. I feel like in the latter, the fact that I'm a bit more studied, if I may say, not so much as in transcribing wise, but in terms of music. I am more musically aware. I have had more music opportunities that a lot of young cats probably won't have and maybe because a lot of young cats don't actually seek them, you know what I mean? And even if they did it, sometimes it could be too late, like playing with some historical cats. And that's not to say that I'm pointing fingers, "ha-ha, you didn't do it," I moved to the scene 10 years too late to play with Art Blakey! Somebody else did get a chance to play with Blakey, I didn't. They were here; I wasn't. The same with me 10 years later. And that experience makes you stronger and more aware as a musician.
AAJ: So do you wish you would have been in this world earlier sometimes?
JP: Well, I don't make it a point to sit and beat myself over the head over it, I don't wish that was born in 1920-something, but every musician my age would say, or should say, that they wish they could have been around to see their favorites in their prime, of course. We are at a good place creatively right now; there are a lot of things happening. It is an exciting time to be in the music, creatively. Definitely not exciting from the business aspect, but I feel like it is definitely a great time for cats to be here on the scene.
Today also we have CD burners and Internet, and you are not going to make that much money on any kind of music. More people buy pop or hip hop than jazz but all the record labels are losing money. We don't even have as many record stores. Now we're starting to come to a world where the new generation of kids that are coming out right now, all they know is the computer. So now it is easier to get the music without purchasing it; record stores and CDs are almost becoming obsolete. Now we have royalties for downloads and for the younger people, that's all they know. For me, the first time I heard Miles Davis, I went to the store and I got a tape, because CDs just got out and were expensive and I didn't have a CD player! But here's the thing: I don't really even see it as sad thing. I wish I could but I don't.
As long as the music is out there, no matter what the media is like, I'm cool. I have a lot of CDs and now you are telling me that I can put every CD I have on a hard drive that has over 500 GB? I like that. I got a son and he's going to grow up and he'll see some CDs laying around, and he won't know what that is. And I can sit there and explain to him 'til I'm blue in the face that back in my day we used to have tapesbut now we have to pretty much go to the Smithsonian to see what a tape looked like. I think history is an important thing and now you can see what the advancement has been, so I can't be sad about the CDs being gone.