Jeremy Pelt Quartet, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London – review

A terrific, intense performance from the US trumpeter and his collaborators

By Mike Hobart
October 21, 2014 
For two intense sets, US trumpeter Jeremy Pelt focused his every fibre on creating the perfect phrase to fit each moment – and he rarely put a foot wrong. Playing four-square into the mic, he sculpted long lines that let the music breathe and built spontaneous ideas into finely crafted miniatures.

Pelt has a beautifully rounded tone and is a canny composer; over the past decade he has released a steady stream of albums on the New York-based High Note label. His immediate influences are the 1960s acoustic jazz of Miles Davis and Art Blakey, and the two covers he played tonight were written by saxophonist Wayne Shorter. But for the most part he played original material that gives the form a tweak with hints of contemporary rhythm and darker harmonic structures.

Pelt’s approach is collaborative and his quartet, honed by an extensive European tour, effortlessly transcended a run-of-the-mill trumpet and rhythm bash. Pianist Martin Terens’ harmonic textures had subtle shades, bassist Josh Ginsburg was a rock of counterpoint, funk and swing, and both delivered solos that never slackened.

But the most riveting relationship was the one between Pelt and the rhythmic chatter and polyrhythmic pulse of his young drummer Jonathan Barber. Barber coaxed, complemented and cajoled Pelt to ever greater heights, their dialogue following an inner logic of their own making. Single notes, hovering precisely across the pulse, were answered by a snare drum snap; cymbal splashes cued dazzling oblique runs through the full trumpet range; and a sharp upper-register stab gained emphasis from a moment’s silence.

Both sets started at a lope, climaxed with a ballad and ended with Pelt introducing his band over an angular blues theme. There was a mid-set flyer in the first half and, as Pelt’s flurries of sound raged over a thunder of mallets, a move to abstraction in the second. “Nephthys” – constantly misheard by audiences as Netflix, said Pelt ruefully – featured delicately poised, muted trumpet. It was a terrific gig, with great playing and a warm and relaxed presentation that kept an unaccountably sparse audience fully engaged for both sets.

Pelt will appear as co-leader of the Soul Factor quintet at Ronnie Scott’s, London, on November 10 and 11