After a century of development that has involved splitting off into varied branches, each with its own complement of dedicated listeners, straight-ahead or mainstream jazz has continued to move forward with the help of young lions eager to forge their own pathways. One such trailblazer is trumpeter Jeremy Pelt who is in full force on these two recent releases.
Pelt's quintet engages in an emotional outpouring on November, nine originals delivered with grace and charm. Serious and melancholy for the most part, Pelt's program lifts spirits through its free-flowing melodies. Made up mostly of ballads, November places Pelt's pure trumpet and flugelhorn tone up front with suggestive moods provided by tenor saxophonist JD Allen, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Slower pieces such as "Rosalie" and "Dreamcatcher" provide meaningful reference points for improvisation perfect for the ensemble's reflective demeanor. Up-tempo romps such as "Monte Cristo" and "Phoenix" carry a lighter texture that energizes the quintet. Walking bass, scrambling drums, block-chording piano and two lyrical horns carry Pelt's message with confidence.
As a guest with Pete Zimmer's quartet, Pelt swings his horn through six selections that include tunes by Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham and Cole Porter. The drummer's fourth CD as leader, Chillin' Live opens and closes with energetic dances that maintain an easygoing spirit. Pelt's trumpet and Avi Rothbard's guitar keep the mood light and cool while Zimmer's persuasive rhythm moves comfortably around the band's focus. Bassist David Wong, who worked with Zimmer on his last two albums, returns to give the quartet a strong foundation. As a live recording including both burners and ballads that work to Pelt's strengths, Chillin' Live effectively captures the freshness that Zimmer's quartet took to Kentucky one September night. There may have been a chill in the nighttime air, but Pelt's embrace warmed this session considerably.
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