Jeremy Pelt – Men Of Honor (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Did Columbia Records just pull a forgotten Miles Davis Second Great Quintet record out of the vault and dropped it unsuspectingly on the public? Because when I listen to Jeremy Pelt’s new CD Men Of Honor (released January 26), it often feels like a set of songs that can comfortably rest alongside tracks from E.S.P., Miles Smiles, The Sorcerer and Nefertiti.

But then again, Pelt’s trumpet doesn’t mimic the horn from the Prince of Darkness. At 33 years old and voted Down Beat Magazine‘s Rising Star on the Trumpet five years straight, Pelt has reached a point where he has undeniably forged his own style that assimilates facets from Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Wynton Marsalis into a very tasteful but passionate voice. Last January 26, Pelt issued his seventh album as a leader and first from the HighNote label, called Men Of Honor.

This album clicks because of so many things going for it. First off, Pelt had assembled a very talented quintet whom he carried over intact from his last album November: J.D. Allen on tenor sax, Danny Grissett on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Secondly, with the HighNote contract comes the very best recording arrangement the jazz industry has to offer: engineering, mastering and mixing by Rudy Van Gelder at his studio in Englewood, New Jersey. And lastly, a slew of eight expressive and esoteric melodies, four of which are supplied by Pelt and one a piece by his band mates.

Which brings us back to the Miles moods that’s infused throughout this record. The 1965-68 era of Davis is one of his best, of course, a time where his music got more abstract but without losing his signature blues feeling. Rarely has this phase of his career has provided inspiration for a jazz record so successfully since after Wynton’s J Mood release of 1986, but Men Of Honor echoes that style magnificently.

The downbeat, penetrating quality of the graceful ballads like “Brooklyn Bound” oozes with the same searching qualities that made “Circle” (from Miles Smiles) such a perfect canticle that’s paradoxically both distant and emotional. “Danny Mack” shares spider-like bass line with “Riot.” “Illusion” depicts the cool, subtle textures of Sorcerer and features beautifully understated comping and solo piano from Grissett and a muted horn from Pelt. However, it’s Cleaver who contributes the best of so many solid compositions: the evocative “From The Life Of The Same Name” carries over the same unhurried modal temperament of Herbie Hancock‘s “Little One.”

When the connection to mid-sixties Miles is less explicit, it’s more reminiscent of early sixties Hubbard, as in the Blue Note bop of “Backroad.” Allen’s sax is blues-drenched and ruminative, like Juju-era Wayne Shorter, while Pelt’s solo is fiery, articulate and full of ideas. For “Milo Hayward,” the melody and rhythm play a cat and mouse game in a clever, multi-directional stream of notes.

Jeremy Pelt’s Men Of Honor is just the kind of album one thinks of when it comes to how jazz is supposed to be: cool, confident, swinging and just a little mysterious. Although released early in the year, it’s safe to state that this will be one of the best mainstream jazz records you’ll hear from 2010.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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