LIVE: Jeremy Pelt @ Live at The Falcon, Marlboro, 04/24/2022
You don’t usually see suits onstage at the Falcon; it’s a pretty casual scene. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt didn’t wear a tie Sunday night, so maybe that counts as casual for him. The rest of his outfit was sharp as a tack: Black suit, black shirt, black shoes, and a gold show kerchief. If that wasn’t enough to show the crowd that Pelt was serious business, they got the message about twenty seconds into his righteous quintet’s opening number.
Pelt’s been swinging for the fences the last couple of years: His 2019 HighNote release The Artist was on multiple Top Ten Lists that year, and his latest outing Soundtrack is making many early lists for Best of 2022. His sound is bebop, but it’s all original compositions that sound like nothing but Jeremy Pelt. To make things more interesting, Pelt made an unlikely choice for a primary foil: Vibes – and it worked like a charm.
Pelt kicked it off with “Picking Up The Pieces”, the opening track on Soundtrack. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the upbeat bebop tune had heads bobbing almost immediately. Pelt worked without a mute, blowing hot lines over the crowd. Pianist Victor Gould and vibes player Chien Chien Lu laid out, letting Pelt lay it all out while drummer Allan Mednard ripped it up and bassist Andrew Klein kept it right down the middle. Gould and Lu would begin to make their mark later in the piece and were a huge part of Pelt’s overall attack.
Pelt played to the back of the house all night, and he even played off-mic entirely during “Don’t Dog The Source.” But power is nothing without shape & substance, and Pelt brings both, whether it’s on hot stuff like “Memphis” or beautiful watercolors like Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music.” Pelt was a monster, which was amazing considering the monster 24 hours he’d had prior to the gig. “I got in at 2 in the morning,” Pelt confided in us, “and then got up at 9 am to take my kid to a Lego festival!”
Lu is 32 but looks about 18, and the white kicks she wore with her own all-black outfit added to that vibe. While she kept it simple to start on “Pieces”, she stepped out on her own on “Soundtrack”, reminding me of the first time I saw a teenaged Stefon Harris at Skidmore Jazz Institute and thought, “Who IS this kid???” Lu brings possession and confidence to the table along with a smoker full of chops. The satisfied grin she flashed occasionally was completely infectious, as were her solos on “Memphis” and the closer “I’m Still Standing.” (Not the Elton John song!)
Gould first showed up in Greater Nippertown as part of the Michael-Louis Smith Quintet, but he’s gone on to put out two discs of his own riveting, colorful compositions. That said, Gould’s still doing support gigs, and he was on the job all night long, bringing multiple changes of pace to the fire served up by Pelt and Lu. His soft, supple touch was perfect for “I Love Music”, and he teamed up with Lu to build a beautiful alternate foundation under Pelt for “You & Me.”
Mednard’s been showing up on a lot of discs I play on “Jazz2K @ The Saint”, and he brought the big sound I expected to hear. Klein was subbing for Pelt’s regular bassist Vicente Archer, who was off doing his own support thing; Klein switched between acoustic and electric bass to give each piece the foundation it required.
“Up until today,” Pelt told us early on, “I didn’t even know where Marlboro was!” Given the rousing reception he received all night long, he’ll make sure to be back soon – and, given the fire-breathing performance Pelt dropped on us, we’ll be packing the Falcon whenever he shows up.