This intimate, confident disc worms its way into your head. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt’s sixth album is an understated affair showcasing supple songwriting, a persuasive way with a phrase and the expert interplay of the band he has led over his past four albums. Pelt and tenor saxophonist JD Allen seem of one mind, harmonizing effortlessly on such Pelt compositions as “The Ballad of Ichabod Crane” (the most sinuous) and the ornery, bright “What’s Wrong Is Right,” the longest and jauntiest track.
Pelt builds logical, clear-eyed solos over a rhythm section that knows how to make kinetic room for him; check out how bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Gerald Cleaver construct a rhythm cage around Pelt as he tells the first story in “What’s Wrong,” alternating declamatory phrases with more conversational ones before Allen takes over, hewing to the middle register to perpetuate the drama the title implies. Pianist Danny Grissett keeps the tonality dark and the sensibility bluesy, knowing just when to accelerate. Everyone plays sharp and smart throughout, and Pelt’s production is generous and lucid.
A collection of originals save for George Cables’ romantic “Sweet Rita Suite, Part 2: Her Soul” and “Moondrift,” a Sammy Cahn tune featuring the restrained vocals of Philadelphian Joanna Pascale, Soul is a fine, patient document of an assured group. The music is often beautiful, largely because it offers a shadowy tension that feels at once new and familiar; in ambience Soul evokes Miles’ In a Silent Way, but in format and strategy it looks toward the trumpeter’s second great quintet. Still, Pelt is his own man, freshening the notion of duende with a personal take on ballads and the blues.