The Miles Davis influence is immediately evident in Jeremy Pelt’s timbre, phrasing, linear structures-even his tonguing technique. Like Miles, he builds tension with tightly wound note clusters, then releases it by breaking into piercing ascents or extended lines, and a lot of his improvisational conceits sound adapted directly from the Davis canon. What sets him apart, however, is the context he creates-especially, in this case, the rhythmic context: two drummers, Billy Drummond and Victor Lewis, intertwine so unerringly that they sound like “one drummer with a split personality” (as Pelt puts it in his liner notes). At several points, pianist Simona Premazzi and bassist Ben Allison lay out; the resulting horn/drums discourses may recall the groundbreaking duo effusions of Coltrane and Elvin Jones, but there are also echoes of Billy Brimfield and drummer Hamid Drake’s interplay on some of saxophonist Fred Anderson’s early live recordings. (Premazzi, by the way, deserves special mention: When she’s onboard, she consistently challenges and prods Pelt with her quick-shifting rhythmic variations and scurries into, out of and back into conventional chordal and harmonic patterns-all of which she continues, unerringly and unobtrusively, while accompanying as well as during her solos.)
Pelt’s “Harlem Thoroughfare” teems with life; both its stop-start structure and Pelt’s twisty, skittering solo evoke New York traffic as well as the gait of an awestruck pedestrian stopping repeatedly to take in the vitality and wonder all around him. “Ruminations on Eric Garner” is both a call to arms and a benediction: After an appropriately tumultuous, angst-ridden opening, it settles into an extended trumpet-drums dialogue-part funeral march, part battle cry, all ritual call-and-response.
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