Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has been perfecting his fitful blend of Miles Davis-oriented electric fusion jazz for eight years now. The title of Face Forward, Jeremy sounds like his personal admonition to dedicate himself more completely to the task, and the nine songs here reflect that growth and commitment.
The linkage to classic, Bitches Brew-era Miles comes from Pelt’s tone and phrasing, with splashed and anguished notes battening down into parry-and-thrust passages supported by David Bryant’s warm, active electric keys and relentlessly upbeat patter of Dana Hawkins’s drums. Hawkins is crucial to this ensemble in much the same way Tony Williams was for Miles’s, functioning as a rigorous yet pliable rhythmic foundation. His beats feel omnipresent, a floating constant rather than a martial timekeeper.
Face Forward might be Pelt’s most dedicated attempt to crystallize his sensibility, but he still can’t resist tossing in a few wrinkles: “Rastros” is an elegant chamber piece featuring cello, harp and vocals, while vocals adorn a pair of tunes dedicated to Pelt’s daughter, “Princess Caroline” (sung with a soft Portuguese-Brazilian flair by Fabiana Masili), and “Verse,” a heartfelt but innocuous ballad sung by Milton Suggs. More representative are numbers like the funky, deft “The Calm Before the Storm” or the relaxed grandeur of Pelt’s own “In My Grandfather’s Words.” If Pelt is taking is taking his stern admonition at face value, he would do well to incorporate some of serpentine exploration of his forebears. As the group’s leader, oldest member, and most accomplished stylist, Pelt has the authority and chops to take it to the next level.