Jeremy Pelt Credit: Sally Pritchard

Jeremy Pelt
has firmly established himself as one of the finest mainstream trumpeters in jazz, zigzagging among varied projects but retaining a strong identity. His latest recording, High Art (HighNote), is billed to the Power Quintet, a skilled combo that works within the tradition, summoning the spirit of classic 50s hard bop but adding a measured contemporary sheen. Joined by pianist and longtime colleague Danny Grissett, liquid-toned vibist Steve Nelson, redoubtable bassist Peter Washington, and casually versatile drummer Bill Stewart, Pelt complements the music’s brisk swing with his melodic fluidity and pure, plush tone.

There’s nothing about these sleek performances you haven’t heard before, but the combo brings impressive rhythmic buoyancy to the material—primarily originals by Pelt and Grissett, augmented by a Stewart composition, a Monk classic, and the standard “But Beautiful.” Below you can check out Pelt’s “Ascona.”
Pelt is in the middle of an engagement at the Jazz Showcase, leading an entirely different band—and to my ears, it’s more interesting and absorbing. The quintet he’s brought to Chicago features bassist Ben Allison, pianist Simona Premazzi, and drummer Jonathan Barber—some of the same players who appeared on the trumpeter’s terrific 2015 album, Tales, Musings and Other Reveries. The double-drummer lineup on that record was propelled by Victor Lewis and Billy Drummond, but Barber has proved capable of holding his own in their stead. Whereas Pelt sounds relaxed and lyrical on High Art, his blowing with the group he’s leading at the Showcase is much more fiery and agitated, with an on-the-edge volatility that doesn’t sacrifice precision or focus. This is the most exciting of his groups since the dissolution of his previous quintet four years ago.

Today’s playlist:

ICP Orchestra, Restless in Pieces (ICP)
Ralph Alessi, Quiver (ECM)
Jayhawks, Paging Mr. Proust (Sham/Thirty Tigers)
David Murray, Geri Allen, and Terri Lynne Carrington, Perfection (Motema)
Mary Halvorson Octet, A Way With You (Firehouse 12)