Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt releases an album a year, and it’s always worth hearing. His 2019 release, Jeremy Pelt the Artist, is no exception; indeed, it’s one of his best. (Get it from Amazon.)
The band features several of Pelt’s recent collaborators—Victor Gould on piano, Frank LoCrasto on Fender Rhodes, and Vicente Archer on bass—alongside an array of new faces including Chien Chien Lu on vibraphone and marimba; Alex Wintz on guitar; Ismel Wignall on percussion; and Allan Mednard on drums.
When he appeared on the Burning Ambulance podcast last year, Pelt offered a sneak preview of the music to be heard on JPtA, revealing that it would include a suite inspired by the work of sculptor Auguste Rodin. That suite makes up the first five tracks of this nine-track, 45-minute album; if it was available on vinyl, this would be Side One.
The first segment of the suite, “L’Appel aux Armes,” begins with slowly pulsing piano and vibraphone, more like Steve Reich than jazz. After a minute or so, the trumpet, guitar, bass and drums enter, and the music surges. Eventually, LoCrasto enters on Fender Rhodes, and he and Gould take turns in the spotlight, as Lu’s vibraphone dances around them over a hard-slapping groove from Archer and Mednard. After the initial melodic statement, Pelt himself doesn’t reappear until the fourth minute of a seven-minute track.
The suite’s third segment, “I Sol Tace (Gates of Hell),” is shockingly abstract for Pelt. It begins with electronically warped trumpet straight out of Miles Davis circa 1969, layered over vibes and percussion, before Archer’s positively booming bass enters. Ultimately, the swirling acoustic music provides a bed for Pelt’s smeared trumpet lines, and he hits some piercing high notes that are almost shocking.
In the album’s second half, Pelt returns to more familiar territory. “Feito” is a bouncing post-bop number of a type he’s recorded many times. His rich, full trumpet sound keeps the energy level high, with just a piano trio behind him. At the piece’s midpoint, Lu appears, taking a fast, Milt Jackson-esque solo as Mednard hammers the kit.
The album ends with a lush slow blues played by the core quartet, “As of Now,” that’s reminiscent of Woody Shaw‘s late ’70s work. Pelt starts things off, then Archer takes a short but potent solo before the leader returns to the spotlight. Gould is the final soloist, his florid romanticism the perfect final statement.
If Jeremy Pelt has made a bad album, I’ve never heard it. He’s one of the most technically impressive and lyrical trumpeters around, and Jeremy Pelt the Artist allows his skills as a composer and bandleader to come to the fore in ways that are unprecedented in his catalog to date. It’s a must-hear.
Stream it on Spotify: