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Jeremy Pelt at Dizzy's

Dan McClenaghan By

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Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt could have been forgiven if he and his crack quartet had turned in a ho-hum performance Monday, January 12, at Dizzy's in downtown San Diego. The band had just wrapped up a successful four day stay at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, and were, at show time, eight hours away from hitting the road again: a four a.m. wake-up call for an appointment with Interstate 5, for a drive up to the Long Beach airport to catch a flight back to New York. Dizzy's was that one last show before heading home.
And the San Diego club isn't located in the poshest of locales. The downtown renovation here has thus far eluded Seventh Avenue. You step over our less fortunate, slipped-through-the-cracks homeless brethren to gain admission. Add to these less than fortuitous circumstances the fact that the joint was less than half full, and you have the makings for a desultory, let's-get-this-over-with situation for a road-weary quartet. But at exactly eight p.m.—showtime—Jeremy Pelt and crew took the stage and played as if they'd been blessed with the best of venues, treating the fortunate listeners to a stellar night of jazz.
Jeremy Pelt radiates a quiet professionalism. Dressed in a dark suit, possessed of an erect and rather regal bearing, the trumpeter blew into the show's opener, Charles Mingus's "Weird Nightmare", which is, incidentally, the same song that opens his marvelous new CD, Close to My Heart.
Pelt's trumpet sound was gorgeous from the get-go. Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove and Terrance Blanchard are the names you hear mentioned most often when it comes to pure beauty of tone. The CD and the concert bear out the fact that you've got to add Jeremy Pelt's name to that list.

Dizzy's is a jazz fan's paradise: arrive ten minutes early and you can score stage side seats, eight feet from the musicians.

I wondered going in if Pelt's backing band would be a let down from his top flight accompanists on Close to My Heart. After all, it would be hard to find a finer rhythm section than Mulgrew Miller—piano; Peter Washinton—bass; and Lewis Nash—drums. But Danny Gressitt, Josh Ginsberg and Willie Jones III—piano, bass, drums, respectively— proved themselves more than up to the challenge, with a bit more of and edge and a bite. They exhibited an easy rapport at the end of this West Coast tour, and each of them received a good deal of solo time they used to full effect.

Jeremy and Company played several songs off the new CD, a couple from Pelt's previous disc, Profile (Fresh Sound New Talent, '02) and a few gems I hadn't heard him play before.

The young trumpeter has a rather stoic stage presence, but his horn sound is as emotive as it could be. I've got a hunch that the musician is an emotional guy, and it all comes out of his horn. "502 Blues (Drinkin' and Drivin'), was particularly moving that night, a piece suffused—on record and even more so in concert—with contrition and remorse, melancholy.

Breath-takingly beautiful was Donald Byrd's "It's a Beautiful Evening", with Pelt switching to the richer-toned flugelhorn. And the highlight of the first set: "Sir John", a hard-driving Blue Mitchell tune that the band just smoked, with Willie Jones III's most inspired drum solo of the evening.

The CD, Close to My Heart is a knockout. So was the show that night. I floated out of Dizzy's hugely impressed with Jeremy Pelt's chops and professionalism, his serious musicality, and his first rate backing band. I also walked out with the satisfying knowledge that I'd just had the great good fortune of sitting eight feet from a major new talent for two hours as he worked his magic.

Photo Credit
Jimmy Katz

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