[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Needs Musos Who Can Play Melody, Swing & Improvise

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 23 07:40:19 PST 2004

Not quite OKOM, but the message is transferable. Check out the first
paragraph at least. Play melody, swing & improvise in recognizable song
forms such as Blues, Ballad & so on. Jeremy Pelt is worth a listen if you
are in the area, because that's what he does.

Steve Barbone


A Sampler of Modes and Moods, of Influences and Personal Style

Because jazz occupies a smaller corner of culture than it once did, people
don't cotton to it so quickly; the music doesn't strike the deeper
frequencies of new listeners as easily as it once did. Jazz will always
depend on its mystery-makers, who construct their calculus of collapsed time
and harmony and melody, who make music sound warped and disorienting and
delicate. But jazz also needs musicians who can come out of the shadows and
show forthrightly how to play a melody well, how to swing, how to improvise
through its most recognizable song forms - blues, modal, ballad and so on.

Jeremy Pelt, a young trumpeter whose career as a bandleader has accelerated
over the last few years, demonstrated this strength at the Jazz Standard on
Tuesday night. It's clear that he can play in a lot of different ways, but
he presented, with style, what amounted to a course in post-bebop basics. He
put together a set that mixed holiday music with his own, and brought in the
Sirius String Quartet to complement his own quartet, which has Eric Reed on
piano, Peter Washington on bass and Willie Jones III on drums.

Mr. Pelt has skimmed off the top of the trumpet tradition since the
mid-1950's, borrowing bits and pieces from Clifford Brown, Booker Little and
Woody Shaw. In an arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" Mr. Pelt dug
into Miles Davis's streamlined plangency, playing full, round notes at
reduced volume, and in the uptempo "Take Me in Your Arms" he went outside
the tune's tonality, playing more aggressive passages that recalled Freddie

With this quartet's rhythm section - and especially with Mr. Jones's strong
and fairly delicate groove - Mr. Pelt gets at the thing about jazz that
always transcends the matter of influences. He might raid past players for
their musical grammar, but swing is personal, and Mr. Pelt wants to reveal
its mystical properties, its feeling of floating. He generally doesn't play
too many notes, which is the greatest temptation for gifted trumpeters.

The arrangements that incorporated the string quartet - as they did on Mr.
Pelt's latest CD, "Close to My Heart" (Max Jazz) - were written by David
O'Rourke, who also conducted. They're in the style of the pretty, melodious
backing heard on the record "Clifford Brown With Strings," though in reduced
form. Mr. O'Rourke pulled a tricky thing off well: the string arrangements
were dry and pretty, supporting the emotion in the songs rather than trying
to out-treacle them.

The Jeremy Pelt Quartet with the Sirius String Quartet performs again
tonight at the Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, Manhattan. Mr. Pelt's
New Quartet will be at the Fat Cat, 75 Christopher Street, on Jan. 7 and 8,
and at the Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street, from
Feb. 22 to 27. 

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