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Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt's electric 'Shock' venture

January 25, 2008|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

When trumpeter Jeremy Pelt showed up at the Jazz Bakery on Wednesday with a program titled "Shock Value," it was pretty obvious that he wouldn't be playing very many jazz standards. The label traces to Pelt's latest album, with the same title (with his band WiRED), in which his diverse skills are aimed in the retrospective direction of Miles Davis' electric music of the late '60s and early '70s.

That's not exactly the style that earned Pelt a "Rising Star" award from Down Beat magazine for five years in a row. But it's a reasonable arena for a young player to choose for further exploration.

The opening piece, a Pelt original titled "Circular," set the pattern for the balance of the set.

Frank Locrasto's Fender Rhodes electric piano and Gavin Fallow's electric bass churned out a roving melodic pattern, as drummer Dana Hawkins laid down a propulsive, back-beat driven rhythm. Pelt's trumpet, played through various electronic tone-altering circuits, swooped and whirled, alternating colorful note bursts with piercing highs and shivering wah-wahs.

There were fascinating moments here and there -- usually those provided by Pelt's virtuosic playing.

More often, however, the music had a surprisingly dated quality, despite its edgy, electronic orientation. As with the Davis music of the '60s and '70s, the absence of a meaningful harmonic or melodic reference point placed a great burden on the players to find communicative tools for expression within a relatively random improvisational environment.

Pelt's accurately titled "Blues" was an improvement, in the sense that it was based on the most common and familiar of jazz forms, and he used it to showcase his impressive mainstream skills.

Drawing from a long line of trumpet forebears, including Clifford Brown and Terence Blanchard, adding his own imaginative skills, Pelt played with formidable passion and intensity. A return to electronica on the next number accurately signaled an evening dominated by murky textures and groove rhythms.

Nor was the experience enhanced by the sometimes painful decibel level. The Bakery is an intimate room, its acoustics dramatically improved by recent changes in structure and seating. But its musical intimacy was heavily battered by audio that was not only too loud but also lacking in any dynamic range.

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