The US hard bop trumpeter in Frith Street on a fleeting visit with vibist Steve Nelson, last heard in Soho over the road in late-2015 at the Pizza with Oran Etkin; pianist Danny Grissett who is on Pelt’s new album #Jive Culture; double bassist Peter Washington (who featured on Claire Martin’s Too Much in Love To Care and recently Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap’s Jerome Kern songbook album My Shining Hour); and ex-Sco drummer Bill Stewart.
This band, leader Jeremy Pelt told us, first began playing together about a year ago. Close your eyes sometimes with him and you’re listening to Freddie Hubbard. Open your ears and you’ll hear more, much more. “London it’s been too long,” he said, after he was introduced to the stage by music booker Paul Pace ‘evincing’ plenty of anticipation in the introduction (Vincent Herring was not present, Pelt explained, referring to the slip of the tongue with a lovely smile).
Washington and Nelson had come straight over from Heathrow, not that there was any noticeable frantic rushing about. An unruffled demeanour was the order of the day but the second set was better and swung like the clappers.
Pelt is fairly unflappable and highly comfortable on the stage. It seems like home to him. There is a lot of strength in his big range and he can melt in and out and soar on reflex or flutter for the rhythm section to gather to swoop. He was very well dressed in a smart suit sporting a neat tie pin and handkerchief poking out of his breast pocket, frequently mopping his brow, and stood by the side of the stage sometimes disappearing into the dressing room when the band changed to play in quartet or trio mode.
He joked in the first set that people sometimes come up to him to ask about that tune ‘Netflix’ or ‘Nephthys’ as it is better known (!) an original that Pelt has recorded on a few albums over the years and played at le duc des Lombards club in Paris with Dwayne Burno in the band. The duc des Lombards booker was coincidentally in the club earlier chatting to the artistic director of the Montréal Jazz Festival and The Cookers co-manager who had come to hear support artist new vocal star in the making Polly Gibbons as had singer Claire Martin who added lots of encouragement during Gibbons’ set from her place in the audience.
Gibbons was appearing with Ronnie Scott’s artistic director James Pearson on piano, double bassist Tim Thornton and drummer Chris Draper, and is to return to the studio for another record for US label Resonance to be produced once again by George Klabin following on from Many Faces of Love. Hers is a classic jazz voice, a class act with a great future ahead of her surely both here and in the US as she tours more and more.
Returning to Pelt later in the band’s second set there was a lovely tune called ‘Ascona’ inspired by gigging in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Washington ruled the roost throughout the evening second guessing every harmonic move that Grissett made and Pelt elaborated on. Stewart meanwhile really swung hard in the second set, nicely salty on a Monk tune, firing up bebop bombs, his ride cymbal work probing and prodding. Stephen Graham