Once, during an interview with the esteemed bassist Dave Holland, the topic of his association with Miles Davis came up. Dave mentioned how often he and so many others spoke of Miles as if he were still around. The spirit of the late, great man was present again on Friday, June 7th at Smoke, the cool and cozy jazz joint on Manhattan’s upper Westside, where I made my way through a torrential rain to take in the latest performance in the annual month-long celebration of Miles that Smoke named “Dreaming in Blue: Miles Davis Festival 2013.” The event runs for over a month actually, this year from May 24 through June 30. Each night during the festival a different group presents a uniquely themed performance covering an aspect of Miles’ ever-changing career from bebop to his modern electric phase. On this evening the great pianist Larry Willis invited four master musicians from different generations to join him to celebrate Miles. Two of Miles’ former associates, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster were there, along with Javon Jackson and Jeremy Pelt, young lions of the tenor and trumpet respectively. I’d come specifically to have a conversation with Jeremy Pelt, as I’d not had the chance to speak with this young master. I felt this would be a perfect time in his career and an excellent setting, plus I’d heard there was a very tasty menu from which to partake.
Upon entering the very friendly confines of Smoke, which some might call cramped but I call intimate, I made contact with some of the players setting up on stage and made arrangements to speak with Jeremy after the first set. He was sitting down to a pre-show meal of blackened catfish and after finishing this fine repast suggested we start the conversation immediately. My intent was to understand more about his life and career, including the specifics of his most recent release Water And Earth as well as his live album recorded at Smoke, but ended up getting a lesson on what it’s like being a young, Jeremy is 37 now, leader of a jazz group at this challenging time in music business history. Before the set began we had time to cover his early experiences, being born in California but not “of” California, and raised literally and musically in the East. He attended Berklee in Boston and was raised in The Bronx so calling Smoke his neighborhood jazz joint, it’s located on Broadway between 105th & 106th Streets, was totally true.