Jeremy Pelt needed to get some years behind him before he could make an album like The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1. Like many young lions, the trumpeter spent his early years spitting fire and chasing after ideas to see what stuck: most comfortable in post-bop and modal settings, with the usual suspects—Miles, Hubbard, et al.—serving as his guiding light, he also ventured into spacious, orchestral creations, funk and electronically augmented jams, always adventurous, often audacious.
Pelt long ago proved his chops, versatility, and willingness to step out where he hadn’t before—2019’s The Artist was anchored by a multi-part suite inspired by Rodin’s sculptures—but never has he taken such a deep, long breath and simply played it so cool, as he does here. What makes The Art of Intimacy so surprising is its deliberate lack of sparks, its soft, rounded edges: At 43, Pelt (who self-produced) has made the least encumbered recording of his career, a low-key, drummerless trio session, consisting primarily of ballads, most of them standards, that virtually defines the phrase “mellow jazz.”
You couldn’t have chosen better partners for this venture than pianist George Cables and bassist Peter Washington, both older gentlemen who ooze mellifluousness and sensitivity in their playing. On tracks like Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” and Yarburg/Schwartz’s “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” the trio’s mutual respectfulness is omnipresent, as much in the open spaces as in their measured, deftly navigated interactions. Of the few original compositions, both Pelt’s opening “Love Is Simple” and his co-write with Washington, “Ab-o-lutely” (which Cables sits out), manage to say much with little. The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1 is a warm, welcoming, familiar blanket—bring on volume two.
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