Jeremy Pelt – The Talented Mr. Pelt ★★★★★

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Jeremy PeltHigh Note

Jeremy Pelt (t, flhn), J.D. Allen (ts), Danny Grissett (p), Dwayne Burno (b) and Gerald Cleaver (d). Rec. September 2010

A year ago, Pelt’s previous CD Men of Honor (my record of the year for 2010) was the first brand-new recording that this writer has ever awarded five stars. This new one is, arguably, even better and probably contains the leader’s best yet recorded work. His solos – thoughtful, always harmonically and rhythmically challenging – seem to reach an even higher level of creativity than usual. Bassist Burno, in his informative heartfelt liner notes, confirms what I wrote about Men of Honor. That this is a band not an all-star pick-up group. No clash of egos, but a solid commitment to stay together because of their mutual friendship and respect and the strength of the music they make. On this, their third CD as a group, Jeremy himself has written almost all the material, with the exception of a seldom remembered Peggy Lee-Cy Coleman ballad called ‘I’m In Love Again’ (which mainly features heart-breaking flugelhorn) and one of the album highlights, an unexpectedly intriguing, floating composition basically in 3/4 by pianist Anthony Wonsey entitled ‘Paradise Lost’, which towards the end has a simply superb drum solo by Gerald Cleaver.

There’s also a new version of Myron Walden’s incredibly moody, pedal permeated ‘Pulse’, first recorded (sounding very different) by its author a decade ago, on which Burno created a definitive bass line which has remained constant ever since and recently appeared again on Myron’s tenor album, Momentum. Pelt’s five originals are all in different veins, full of harmonic subtleties (like the mysterious Harmon-muted ‘All My Thoughts Are of You’) and rhythmic tension (‘When The Time is Right’). ‘Only’ has further interesting take-off points and terrific JD tenor and Grissett piano, while the closer ‘David and Goliath’ is their live set high spot, with exciting interactive group and solo work. As Burno says: “We slay Goliath every night and have fun doing it.” If history is kind and just, it will remember this Jeremy Pelt Quintet and its collective members as one of the most important and creative bands to emerge in jazz since Miles’ mid-1960s group. A great recording by a band that is THAT good!

– Tony Hall