In my mind Jeremy Pelt is as good a mainstream trumpeter as anyone in jazz, a highly skilled player with a sure grasp of postbop fundamentals who routinely shakes up his own practice. He’s not radical, and he never strays too far from a hard-swinging path, but he’s clearly driven by curiosity and the urge to try new things. For years he led one of my favorite acoustic bands, a deft and nuanced quintet that explored fresh territory from the starting place established by the great Miles Davis Quintet with Wayne Shorter. Over the past few years, though, he’s been leading a shifting array of players—sometimes experimenting with vintage, groove-oriented fusion, sometimes leading a combo with two drummers. He calls his current working band the Power Quintet (it’s booked to play the Jazz Showcase in December 2016), and it includes frequent collaborator Danny Grissett on piano, Steve Nelson on vibes, Peter Washington on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums.
Pelt appears in yet another context on the superb new #Jiveculture (HighNote), a quartet session with two previous collaborators (Grissett and drummer Billy Drummond) and a new partner—veteran bassist Ron Carter, who anchored that classic Miles Davis group in the 60s. The album is relatively conventional postbop that stylishly and forcefully demonstrates Pelt’s lyric mastery and rhythmic dexterity. He feels neither overly reverential toward his inspirations nor cowed by them, and his playing has never sounded stronger. The trumpeter composed five of the album’s eight pieces, and he also includes treatments of the Cole Porter standard “Dream Dancing” and a tender performance of the Dave Grusin ballad “A Love Like Ours,” where Pelt’s supple, warm tone sounds especially round and fluid.
A few stunning details stand out in my mind. Drummond generates thudding syncopation Drummond with his floor tom on “Rhapsody,” while Grissett adds insistent stabs on Fender Rhodes and embellished vamps on an acoustic piano. And a quietly funky line grounds Carter’s venerable tune “Einbahnstrasse,” which Pelt chews up with characteristic relish. Below you can check out the equally engaging opening track, a fast-paced Pelt original called “Baswald’s Place” that opens with wonderfully old-school bar trading between the trumpeter and drummer before settling into its brisk embroidery of a simple, direct melodic phrase.