Jeremy Pelt Takes a New Path
Posted 3/13/2013

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt put on a dazzling concert with his new ensemble, The Jeremy Pelt Show, at Washington, D.C.’s Bohemian Caverns on Feb. 22. The sextet showcased music from Pelt’s new disc, Water And Earth (HighNote), an absorbing amalgam of acoustic and electronic textures in which he deftly envelopes a wealth of musical styles reaching back to the early jazz-fusion period all the way up to 21st century soul-electronica.

The 37-year-old Pelt’s hearty trumpet lines often ran parallel with those of saxophonist Roxy Cross, who fashioned elliptical improvisations. David Bryant superbly complemented Pelt’s electronic experimentations with jabbing accompaniments and jolting harmonies on the electric piano, while Dana Hawkins brought a bristling rhythmic sensation to the fore with his hyperkinetic, multidirectional drumming. Bassist Burniss Earl Travis II anchored the ensemble with haunting ostinato figures rooted in ’70s funk and r&b.

The concert blasted off with the restive “PythagorUs” from Pelt’s 2007 disc Shock Value: Live At Smoke (MaxJazz). The rest of the performance focused on long-form excursions from Water And Earth, hitting high marks on the torrential “Boom Bishop” and the hypnotic “Prior Convictions.”

The following day, DownBeat caught up with Pelt to discuss the new album and why he shifted gears just as his previous band was beginning to reap considerable critical acclaim.

What is the inspiration behind your new album, Water And Earth?

The inspiration is a culmination of a couple different things. One was my need for a different palette, the need to change. There was also a need to finish what I’d started over 10 years ago when I was working with electronics. I wanted to develop that more. As time goes on, music definitely changes. So you end up finding a lot of inspiration in modern-day things. I wanted to go ahead and firmly plant myself in a new year and a new era in terms of my music.

You reference a multitude of different eras and idioms—ranging from the early jazz-fusion years of Weather Report to Brazilian jazz to contemporary r&b to 21st century electronica. Talk about the challenges of folding in so many touchstones and coming up with something fresh.

There were, of course, a lot of different influences, such as Flora Purim, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. But a lot of the other influences that you hear really come from the other musicians who are on the disc. That’s what is magical about the band—the members bring a different sense of musicality to each song. We will sit around and talk about music, and they will hip me to a lot of underground stuff that I’d never heard before. Just the other day, Dana Hawkins was talking about Louis & Genevieve. I didn’t know who they were. It’s obvious that he’s been checking it out, so he brings that experience to the music; we can go around the circle and see different ideas that they brought to the music.

You brought a very impressive band to Bohemian Caverns with players who have yet to become household names. What do you look for in collaborators?

One of the things that I think about when putting together a band is the fact that I need something to last with the same members. I hate changing members. One of the beautiful things about my [former] quintet with JD Allen, Danny Grissett, Dwayne Burno and Gerald Cleaver was that we were very much intact. So when I put together this [new] band, I was looking for something that was going to sound completely different; it had to be something that would get me away from the sound of the quintet. So I didn’t want someone who was influenced enough by something that Danny Grissett played in which he kind of sounds like Danny.

Roxy sounds nothing like JD Allen, which is good for me because it helps get his sound out of my head and put her sound in my head. The same thing goes for everybody. I wanted something in which everyone had a completely different characteristic. While I appreciate that Roxy didn’t sound anything like JD Allen, one of the things that I wanted for the band was another saxophonist—like JD—in which we breathe together and phrase together to sound like one horn. With Roxy, she has that same quality.

Frank LoCrasto has been with me the longest, since 2001. He has a lot of great ambient and textural things that are very good for my music. Is he an established straightahead player? No. But that’s not the capacity [in which] I’m using him.

There was a certain type of maturity that everybody had in the quintet; everybody in the quintet was older than me. But what the new band [has] is a whole lot of freshness that somebody of my quintet’s generation possibly does not have. That’s what I look for because that makes me more open.

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Jeremy Pelt (Photo: Jati Lindsay)

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