Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt arrived Thursday at the Jazz Bakery on a crest of praise from the East Coast. At 27, he already has an impressive track record: a featured performer with the Charles Mingus Big Band, recordings with Wayne Shorter and Frank Foster, a winner in the “Rising Trumpeter” category in Down Beat magazine’s 2003 Critics Poll.
More to the point, his second album, “Close to My Heart,” revealed a strong, young talent, adept in straight-ahead, mainstream style. So why did his opening set at the Bakery sound so pedestrian? The usual culprit is travel, and Pelt wouldn’t be the first player to offer a less than prime performance after a grueling travel day.
Fortunately, amid the less inspired passages, there were enough exceptional moments to justify the accolades -- and to regret not getting a more fully representative example of his music. Many tunes came from “Close to My Heart” -- Charles Mingus’ “Weird Nightmare,” Pepper Adams’ “Excerent,” Jimmy Rowles’ “502 Blues” -- plus Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” and a lovely old standard, “So Beats My Heart for You.” Pelt was at his best in the ballads, whether on trumpet or flugelhorn, when his pure, airy sound and his innate storytelling qualities were in full bloom.
His up-tempo soloing, on the other hand, had a more abrasive quality, further undermined by figures that frequently missed their intended rhythmic targets.
Pelt’s companions, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Josh Ginsberg and drummer Willie Jones III, provided dependable, if not particularly energized accompaniment. One can only hope that the balance of the week’s performances will present a fuller realization of Pelt’s obvious potential.
Jeremy Pelt Quartet
Where: The Jazz Bakery,
3233 Helms Ave., L.A.
When: Today and Sunday,
8 and 9:30 p.m.
Contact: (310) 271-9039