What a blessing and a relaxation this album is. Trumpet meister Jeremy Pelt, one of the most prolific artists on his instrument, has come up with a collection of ballads that is food for the soul. The modern jazz and bop intonation on his almost dozen albums on the HighNote and Savant labels makes way for a soothing, healing moment. Jeremy has always tackled some ballads on his previous albums: there is this sumptuous poignancy on the Peggy Lee-written “I’m In Love Again” from “The Talented Mr. Pelt” (2011), a soft and tender motion working the Van Heusen/Cahn standard “I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her” from the 2015 “Tales, Musings And Other Reveries”, but also the Rhodes-induced, dreamy fusion on the Stanley Clarke-penned “Butterfly Dreams”, indeed a trance-like ethereal finale to his 2013 album “Water And Earth”.
And all of those aspects are dramatically condensed on this wonderful trio album, where Jeremy is aided by one of my favorite pianists, George Cables (if there is just one Gershwin collection you need, check out “By George” (1987) and the 1982 duo album “Goin’ Home” with Art Pepper ranks among my alltime favorite albums), and bassist Peter Washington who plays a very lyrical solo on “Ab-o-lutely”, a lightly swinging trumpet/bass duet. Elsewhere, Jeremy’s ability to dive deep into the lyrics of the hopelessly romantic Harburg/Schwartz standard “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You”, is just spot-on and so lushly executed that it is simply a joy to be indulged by the players. Another duet, this time with trumpet and piano, on “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”, is ample evidence that here are two soul mates exchanging their ideas and their craft.
The muted trumpet balances the album a bit on pieces like “Always On My Mind” and “I’ve Just Seen Her”, where George’s playing on the former is so elegantly refined it made me realize that he is the only one who can fill the void after Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan left us. Above all, there is this seldom-heard warmth coming out of the trumpet that really begs for a Volume 2. “Little Girl Blue”, maybe the most popular standard of this collection, is so full of tenderness and gets a brilliantly affectionate treatment. There is just one slightly uptempo tune here, the George Cables-penned “Ebony Moonbeams” (he recorded this for his 1975 LP “Why Not” with Tony Dumas on bass and Carl Burnett on drums and there is another recording from 1991 with Cecil McBee and Billy Hart), which never strays too far away from the overall comforting mood of the album and is another scintillating duo showcase for trumpet and piano.
I wasn’t aware of the Lucky Thompson composition “While You Are Gone”, but its pacifying straightforwardness is astonishing. If you’re asking me for a favorite cut on this album, it has to be the album opener “Love Is Simple”, written by the leader, opening with a thrilling intro by George, and then moving on to a perfect communication of sensuality and fellowship that is much too rare these days.