Just five short years ago, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt arrived in New York after time spent at the Berklee College of Music and his standing has been on the rise ever since. Fresh from gigs with Ralph Peterson and Sharp Nine Record’s The Class of 2001, Pelt makes his debut as a leader with Profile (FSNT 127) in the company of peers such as Jimmy Greene, Gerald Cannon, and his mentor Peterson. Aside from the one standard, "You Won’t Forget Me," all the tunes are by Pelt and they mine the progressive bent established by Miles Davis circa 1966 (i.e. think Miles Smiles). There’s a crackling excitement to the trumpeter’s approach that lifts everything above the ordinary, with Peterson also responsible for a lot of the fireworks. As a soloist, Pelt combines the melancholy cry of a Davis with the more extroverted abandon of Woody Shaw or Freddie Hubbard. These are merely provided as a source of reference however, because even at this early stage of the game, Pelt promises to be a musician that we’ll be closely watching for many more years to come.
Two other members of The Class of 2001, drummer E.J. Strickland and saxophonist Marcus Strickland have stepped forward to the front of the line with their strong chops and ability to adapt to a wide variety of ensemble needs, the latter a current member of drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts combo. The Brothers Strickland get together with pianist Robert Glasper and bassist Brandon Owens for Marcus’s debut set, At Last (FSNT101). It’s telling that Wayne Shorter’s "Iris" and Joe Henderson’s "Serenity" are in the mix because both men were surely an influence on Strickland during his developmental years. His own writing is far more progressive and there’s no doubt that the saxophonist has something important to say. Straddling the line nicely between conventional hard bop and freer textures, this set serves as a vital introduction to a quartet of able young lions.
The Strickland Brothers and Brandon Owens make the scene as well for alto saxophonist Myron Walden’s Higher Ground (FSNT 129). This pianoless quartet covers a lot of ground over the course of seven Walden originals that really serve as fleet launching pads for the solos. With an alto sound that favors the lower register, Walden’s style owes much to the tenor’s range and he possesses a whole slew of overblowing techniques and textural variants that make for a colorful approach. A lengthy "You Dig" is the best place to start; a slow blues voiced beautifully by Strickland and Walden and not unlike the kind of thing that Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman were exploring with albums like New York Is Now and Love Call.
Serving as somewhat of a house rhythm team, the Strickland’s are also on hand for Breathing Room (FSNT 110), a bristling Blue Noteish sextet session from trumpeter David Weiss. A grad of the jazz program at North Texas State University, Weiss is admittedly a Wayne Shorter fanatic and the classics "Those Who Sit and Wait" and "Armageddon" figure in the mix, the latter getting things underway with E.J. Strickland hitting those triplets a la Elvin. Weiss’ title track is an attractive bossa line that hints at the possible influence of Kenny Dorham to boot. All in all, this is high-energy stuff in the best mainstream tradition and sure to please any fan of the genre.
German native Sebastian Weiss had distinguished himself in a previous Fresh Sound release with a carefree sense of abandon that lifted the piano trio genre out of the ordinary. He continues to plumb new territory with Momentum (FSNT 114) in the company of bassist Bob Bowen and drummer Dan Weiss. Also along for the ride is alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, whom kicks off the opening "No Stop" with an ostinato figure that subsequently leads to a "burn out" section and some pyrotechnics. "Grow" is of a different cloth in that it’s a duo between piano and tabla, but then all of the original compositions speak in unique ways to Weiss’ talents not only as a pianist but as a composer too.