Trumpet Summit: Jeremy Pelt, Brad Goode and Terell Stafford

C. Michael Bailey By

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The spirit of trumpeter Miles Davis remains very much a creative quasar furnishing a certain gravitational pull to a considerable population of bodies orbiting it. On the outer edges of this quasar's orbit are the (relatively) young trumpeters who emerged after the pedantic eclipse of Wynton Marsalis occurred. Three of these orbiting horn players have released recordings showing where they have been taking the Miles Davis Legacy since the trumpeter's death twenty years ago.

Jeremy Pelt
Water and Earth
High Note Records

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has built an impressive discography that includes the present Water and Earth and three previous releases for High Note Records: Soul (2012), The Talented Mr. Pelt (2011) and Men of Honor (2010). Pelt has embraced a more electronic platform in recent years without falling head over heels into the blackhole of jazz-rock fusion. Rather he skirts this orbit for a more structured (and accessible) type of electric jazz.

Pelt is also foregoing standards and composing almost all of his own music. While he remains firmly in a post bop tradition, he spices things up texturally with David Bryant and Frank LoCrasto's Fender Rhodes and other keyboards, wordless vocals (as on "Reimagine the World") and his own bold use of electronics ("Boom Bishop"). The electric piano figures largely on Water and Earth, giving the recording depth and a hint of history dating back to Miles Davis' first use of it with keyboardists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea in the late 1960s. Pelt uses it in a more functionally harmonic manner, giving the music a contemporary sound with only an inference of what came before.

Pelt excels in ballad composing, using deceptively simple themes to build musical cathedrals. "Meditations on a Conversation We Had" is breezy and fresh with A Love Supreme bit of freedom. "Stay" is a vocal selection featuring singer Ra-Re Valverde singing though compression software that gives her voice a deep-in-the-well sound. The remaining highlight of the disc is multi-reedist Roxy Coss, whose serpentine soprano saxophone adds volumes of pathos to Pelt's already emotive trumpet.

Brad Goode
Chicago Red
Origin Records

Chicago cum Colorado trumpeter Brad Goode also likes the sound of the electric piano, employing it liberally (at the hands of Jeff Jenkins) on Chicago Red. His mix also includes the funky guitar of Bill Kopper and electric bass of Bijoux Barbosa. How he differs from Jeremy Pelt, in this respect, is in his more organic application of the electric instruments. Goode's version of funk is tightly scripted and more reminiscent of James Brown and Sly Stone than Davis' marathon performances. The result is what "contemporary jazz" should be, as opposed to what it is.

The James Brown sound is most evident on "Intervallistic," a straight and insistent funk riff over which Goode (soloing open bell) and guitarist Bill Kopper have free-rein and much time to probe the piece's simple harmonic presence. The rhythm section sets up a brisk funk riff that would serve as a dandy live performance vehicle for the band. "Mambo Disonate" is dreamy, minor-key ballad that allows a great deal of complexity to be introduced into the piece. Bassist Burniss Earl Travis gives a bubbling electric-bass solo that further drives the song beyond its opening ballad sensibility.

The two "standards" are interesting. Goode reimagines "St. Louis Blues" as a percussion-heavy, futuristic interpretation that would fit nicely into a post-modern film soundtrack (think of the bar scene in Star Wars). Goode plays muted while Kopper plays sitar to great and disconcerting effect. Goode adapts the aria "Vesti La Giubba" from Ruggero Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci with Kopper again on sitar. Oddly, Goode turns this opera piece into a lyrical jazz vehicle that reveals his sure open bell tone.

Rich Thompson
Less Is More
Origin Records

Rich Thompson is, or course, a drummer and educator best known as a recent drummer with the Count Basie orchestra. He assembles quite the spanking band on Less is More, filling his trumpet chair with Terell Stafford, who helps turn this collection of originals and carefully chosen standards into something special. An acoustic jazz outing, Thompson and, by extension, Stafford fold ten carefully crafted pieces into a finely integrated recital. Nominally a hard bop session, Less is More is a masters' seminar on what mainstream jazz is. Of the three discs considered here, Less is More is the most "traditional," but that does not mean it is boring.

Hard boppers Kenny Dorham's "Lotus Blossom" and Joe Henderson's "Step Lightly" open and close Thompson's disc, giving it the stamp of the 1950s and '60s with 21st century sonics. Stafford takes up the mantle on the opener, detonating on "Lotus Blossom" while the minor-key dissonance set up by tenor saxophonist Doug Stone proves soothing on the Henderson piece is resolved by Gary Versace's milky organ. These are solid performances supported by inventive originals contained within.

Bassist Jeff Campbell's "Hoot Gibson" is complex funk resembling Art Pepper's brilliant and circuitous "Make a List (Make a Wish)." A vehicle for solos, "Gibson" provides an interesting harmonic structure over which Stafford blows muted while Versace adds grease to Campbell's wheels. "I Didn't Know What Time it Was" and "I've Never Been in Love Before" both swing with a retro-grace, featuring Stone and Stafford respectively, both men playing subdued and emotively. Less is More makes a strong case for best mainstream release of the year.

Tracks and Personnel

Water and Earth

Track Listing: Reimagine the World; Mystique; In Dreams; Boom Bishop; Medications on a Conversation We Had; Stay; Pieces of a Dream; Prior Convictions; Butterfly Dreams..

Personnel: Jeremy Pelt: Trumpet; Roxy Coss: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; David Bryant: keyboards; Frank LoCrasto: keyboards; Burniss Earl Travis: bass: Dana Dawkings: drums Ra-Re Valverde: vocals (6); Angela Roberts, Fabiana Masili: vocals (1).

Chicago Red

Track Listing: What Happens In Space City; Know What I'm Saying?; St. Louis Blues; Chicago Red; Intervallistic; Vesti La Giubba; Mambo Disonante; If Spirals Had Corners; All Fall Down; Cats In The Yard.

Personnel: Brad Goode: trumpet; Bill Kopper: guitar, sitar; Jeff Jenkins: piano, keyboards; Bijoux Barbosa: electric bass; Paa Kow: drums; Rony Barrak: darbouka, rik.

Less is More

Track Listing: Lotus Blossom; Hoot Gibson; I Didn't Know What Time it Was; Camping Out; Les is More; Invisible; It's So Easy to Remember; This is for Albert; I've Never Been in Love Before; Step Lightly.

Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Doug Stone: tenor saxophone; Gary Versace: piano Hammond B3 organ; Jeff Campbell: bass; Rich Thompson: drums.



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