Friday, February 21, 2014

Jeremy Pelt's "Face Forward, Jeremy" - DownBeat

Jeremy Pelt
Face Forward, Jeremy

*** 1/2

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt's face fills nearly 95 percent of this album cover. He gaes out with an indefinable expression, not particularly mad or happy but certainly befitting the moodiness of his newest release. He is, as the title implies, facing forward. (Sadly, the back cover of the CD is not a photograph of the back of his head.)

Last year's HighNote date Water and Earth presented Pelt with a lot of electricity and a simmering groove, but also a caveat: This music wasn't meant to be a change in direction as much as it was Pelt strengthening his commitment to his art at present. Pelt's commitment to that swirl of funk and tight band dynamics continues to be fleshed out here. He employs a few studio tricks (effects pedals, fadeouts) but seems focused primarily on the spontaneous, live aspects of form and groove.

Pelt has surrounded himself with terrific instrumentalists and wisely showcases them throughout. Keyboardist David Bryant gets multiple opportunities to shine, including "Stars Are Free" and "Princess Charlie," where he tumbles in torrents alongside drummer Dana Hawkins' tornado. Pelt penned seven of the tunes on this album, but he shines brightes on saxophonist Roxy Coss' contribution, "The Calm Before The Storm." Coss offers an impassioned jaunt on the song's churning changes before Pelt steps in with an engaging blast of his own.

Vocalist Fabiana Masili introduces "Rastros" amid a harp and cello for a brief stylistic change. On "The Secret Code," Hawkins creates an eerie, electrical fog that menacingly envelops Bryant's dour organ and Pelt's echoing leaps. Vocalist Milton Suggs closses out the CD with "Verse," but the vocal appearances here feel out of place next to the instrumentals.

Jeremy Pelt @ DownBeat

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