While November isn’t a concert recording, there are moments when it could be mistaken for one; moments in which trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and his working quintet, prominently featuring tenor saxophonist JD Allen and pianist Danny Grissett, swing hard and lean in vibrant postbop settings. That’s not half the story, though.
Much of the album’s appeal derives from Pelt’s skills as a composer and arranger. “Mata,” a modal fanfare to his grandmother, opens November on a personal note, but it’s the album’s coda, “466-64 (Freedom Fighters),” composed in honor of Nelson Mandela’s epic resolve (and, apparently, written after Pelt visited Mandela’s Robben Island prison cell), that best captures this session’s soulfulness and spirit. When the sound is pared to the essentials on “Rosalie,” a hushed pairing of trumpet and piano, the soulfulness remains and the spirit gives way to burnished lyricism.
As in the past Pelt displays impressive command of his horn, occasionally bringing to mind Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. Comparisons, though, seem even more irrelevant than usual when the trumpeter and his bandmates are fully engaged. The level of interplay is particularly enjoyable on “Dreamcatcher,” with its churning motifs (vigorously sustained by bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gerald Cleaver) and its ample space for Allen and Grissett. Allen also shines when he and Pelt are at their animated best—on “Phoenix,” for example, a tune laced with darting frontline exchanges. Briefly and deftly augmenting the quintet is percussionist Jeff Haynes.