Jeremy Pelt (t, flhn), JD Allen (ts), Danny Grissett (p),Dwayne Burno (b) and Gerald Cleaver (d). Rec. September 2009
Without any reservations, this is the best new release I’ve ever been asked to review since joining Jazzwise and unquestionably deserves five stars – or more! It was heartening to see that several of my colleagues thought that the Pelt Quintet’s gig at Jazz at the Lund last summer was 2009’s best. Because this is, at last, what we used to call a BAND rather than five guys just getting together to record.
This band has a group feel not heard since the likes of the second Miles Davis Quintet (which is definitely one of its inspirations) or the best of the Art Blakey Messengers. Here you have five of the most talented players on the planet, who are all also composers of the highest order, getting together to create a group with an identity and individual sound, utilising originals from every member, but still sharing that common conception and superbly recorded by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder. Pelt is now widely recognised as the most important trumpeter to carry on the Freddie Hubbard tradition. JD Allen has never sounded so effective as on this date, playing with great emotion, making every note count (less is more) with a sound at times recalling early Trane. The brilliant Grissett gets better and better with every recording, Burno is the rock and Cleaver, the most avant-garde of the five, stirring the proceedings, constantly changing the rhythmic landscape and inspiring the soloists.
Burno’s tune ‘Back Road’, the opener, is upbeat and relatively conventional with inspired solos, Grissett’s particularly striking. JD’s moody minor-key Shorteresque ‘Brooklyn Bound’ is outstanding with deeply-moving solos by himself and Jeremy, with Grissett’s floating chords creating more moods, with bass and drums moving beneath. Pelt’s first two tunes are contrasting: the playful ‘Milo Hayward’ (dedicated to his very young son), followed by the darksounding ‘Danny Mack’, which is for JD. Grissett’s percussive dissonant comping, along with Cleaver’s constantly churning drums, further intensify the mood created by the horn solos. Cleaver’s ‘From a Life of the Same Name’ is arguably the deepest of the lot, with beautifully poignant statements by Pelt and then JD. The CD is completed by three more equally moving tracks – Pelt’s gently swinging, down-tempo ‘Illusion’ and ‘Us/ Them’, which features Cleaver’s clever, undulating rhythmic approach and, finally, Grissett’s contribution, the haunting ‘Without You’, which he included on his own Criss Cross album, which leaves the listener emotionally drained and hanging in space. A really great recording by a really great band. Let’s pray they stay together.
– Tony Hall