Jeremy Pelt: Face Forward, Jeremy

Electric music is nothing new to Jeremy Pelt, two of whose mid-2000s efforts for MaxJazz mined the fertile possibilities of fusion. But with last year’s Water and Earth and now Face Forward, Jeremy, both featuring the same basic band, the trumpeter seems to have upped his commitment to the form. As he demonstrated with his longstanding acoustic quintet, which turned out such gems as Men of Honor, few artists take the working-band concept as seriously as Pelt.

The electric group includes soprano and tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss, keyboardist David Bryant, bassist Chris Smith and drummer Dana Hawkins. For all the electronic and programming effects involved, the music on Face Forward, Jeremy has a decidedly natural flow. While traces of fusion-era Miles are imprinted on the chord schemes and in certain grooves, the songs here are neither derivative nor nostalgic for that bygone era.

Pelt reveals his lyrical depth on the atmospheric “Stars Are Free,” pouring out gently sustained tones over guest contributor Frank LoCastro’s dreamy, pulsing Fender Rhodes and Hawkins’ coiled drumming and drum programming. “Princess Charlie,” which Pelt wrote for his daughter, features a dancing solo by him and an airy wordless vocal by Fabiana Masili, who sings her own Portuguese lyrics on the lovely, too-brief “Rastros” (translation: “Footprints”), featuring cello and harp. The album’s tour de force is “The Secret Code,” an edgy, hard-driving, collage-like tune originally written for Pelt’s old band Creation and featuring Bryant on organ and Coss on bass clarinet. With his relentless, flat-textured strokes, Hawkins sounds like he is indeed etching secret messages into the song.