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Jeremy Pelt and JD Allen: New Leaders at Kennedy Center

Franz A. Matzner By

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I could tell right away that this cat meant business. It seemed like his trumpet had a serious love affair with him
Jeremy PeltSince first playing together in the early '90s under drummer extraordinaire Winard Harper, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt's and saxophonist JD Allen's paths have crossed several times, as they solidified their places at the forefront of modern jazz. Each now a master technician, innovative composer, and successful bandleader, Pelt recently asked Allen to contribute to the Jeremy Pelt Quintet's latest —November (MAXJAZZ, 2008). They will perform together on October 3, 2008 at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club, in Washington, DC to celebrate its release.



"The first time that we ever shared a stage together was in the late '90s." explains Allen, "I could tell right away that this cat meant business. It seemed like his trumpet had a serious love affair with him...Great boxers, great comedians, great speakers, great improvisers have one thing in common—great timing. Jeremy Pelt's timing then and now is king."



A consummate stylist, Pelt's success came early. First as a sideman with many of jazz's top bands, including the Mingus Big Band, Frank Wess, and Ravi Coltrane, Pelt's phenomenal tone captured critical attention. Then Pelt's elegant compositions and arrangements on early releases—Profile (Blue Moon, 2002), Close to My Heart (MAXJAZZ, 2003) and Insight (Criss Cross, 2003)—pushed him further into the spotlight as a leader in his own right.



Pelt has since experimented in numerous contexts from post-bop to cool, including going electric with his band "Wired." A master of many genres, audiences can never be sure just what Pelt will offer on stage, but they can rest assured it will be delivered with fire.



JD AllenAllen, who faced a more tortured rise, has more recently burst on the scene as a leader. After working for years as a sideman, Allen fell on difficult times, both professional and personal, leaving him at one point nearly destitute and struggling to make ends meet. "At one point I really was homeless," Allen explains. "I still practiced everyday, but I was homeless." Faced with the stark choice of leaving New York or finding a way forward, Allen entered a period of deep personal transformation. "I started praying and going to church, reading The Bible; and telling myself positive things to change around my thinking."



Finding new purpose in this spiritual revival, Allen reached a new level of creative force, as evidenced by —I AM I AM (Sunnyside, 2008), which garnered much acclaim for its passion and compositional profundity.



"JD is something completely different," responded Pelt when asked about his choice to use Allen on November. "This is the first time I've actually been excited to play with another horn player... JD (and everyone in the band) really knows how to get into my sound. He's an incredibly sympathetic player. I also dig that he's not afraid to mess up or play wrong notes. He's a true jazz musician."



Tracing the arcs and musical intersections of these two young players, it is more than a little tempting to construct parallels to perhaps the greatest of all trumpet and saxophone partnerships, Davis and Coltrane: Pelt, the smooth stylist, multiple bandleader, genre experimentalist; Allen, the spiritual seeker, explosive soloist, brave composer. But to do so would be to deny Pelt and Allen what are their own unique, hard fought musical trajectories, both of which are only just beginning and alight with promise.



Hear more Pelt here.



Visit Jeremy Pelt and JD Allen on the web.



Photo Credits

Jeremy Pelt: Hans Speekenbrink

JD Allen: Frank Stewart


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