The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
There are plenty of good reasons why the Los Angeles-born trumpeter Jeremy Pelt calls both his band and his potent album Men Of Honor.
Here are a quintet of accomplished jazz souls - each member has led his own band and recording sessions, and they are powerful and talented musicians who are utterly attuned and loyal to each other.
Pelt moved from California, first to Boston where he studied at the renowned Berklee College of Music, and then on to New York, where he soon became the new Clifford Brown of his generation, a hardbop-oriented hornman who blew with force and a burnished beauty in various bands, but particularly with Ralph Peterson and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, led by Cannonball's original drummer Louis Hayes.
When I heard Pelt nearly a decade ago with Peterson at Ronnie Scott's I could feel the fire and weight of his notes all around me.
"Mine is a band that sticks together and learns music as best they can to tell as story," asserts Pelt from the album's sleevenotes, and many narratives there are stemming from these sounds and their makers.
On tenor is JD Allen, whose new trio album The Matador And The Bull is full of fire.
A Detrioter born in 1972, his 2001 album Pharoah's Children gave strong omens of what was to come, and his Joe Henderson-inspired eloquence makes him an empathetic front-line partner for Pelt.
Bassist Dwayne Burno is one of the prime bassists of the same generation and drummer Gerald Cleaver, as his recent album Farmers By Nature shows, is as accustomed to much freer drumwork as he is to hardbop patterns and disciplines.
As for pianist Danny Grissett, another young LA-born migrant to the east, he already has three accomplished albums on the Criss Cross label behind him.
The opener, Backroad, is Burno's tune and Allen begins the solo sequence with a buoyant, uplifting chorus which Pelt follows with his muscled, full-voiced sound and Cleaver's drumspurts crashing behind him.
Grissett explores this road with a deft confidence and throughout Burno's bass marks are showing the way.
Milo Hayward is Pelt's theme for his son, and is a shower of trumpetry, before a more mellow Allen steps forward to add his own praisesong.
There is a story of boyhood and a father's love too in Grissett's solo, full of falling notes and the massaging of infancy.
Pelt was determined to strengthen the band's unity by encouraging all its members to contribute a composition.
He managed it too.
"I wanted to make it more a co-operative," he declared, and Allen obliged with Brooklyn Bound, a new home quite a journey from Motown, and not what you might expect.
A slow, reflective piece with Allen's solo racked with lyricism and Pelt serene and note-perfect, rising to a tower of beauty. Danny Mack is Pelt's tune again and whoever he is, he has style and aplomb, as Allen describes him in his bustling solo, with Pelt's horn rocketing upwards, prompted by Cleaver's restless and rumbustious drums.
Cleaver's own tune comes next, the more enigmatic From A Life Of The Same Name, with a pensive horn ensemble and Pelt telling of this life - tentative, uncertain, searching.
When Allen enters the message is magnified by the tenderness and sense of entirety of his tone.
Two more Pelt compositions follow. Burns leads the way with a virtual walking bass of Illusion. Allen comes in for his solo as if he is singing as he walks, so attuned is he, and Pelt uses his harmon mute, still pacing forward.
Who the two contrary elements are on Us/Them is not clear, although the lively colloquy and interplay between Pelt and Cleaver more than suggests that there is some argument afoot. Allen's mollifying chorus calms it down a little, but it is the listener's task to work it all out.
The final track is one from the brilliant Grissett, a love ballad to his wife called Without You.
Pelt uses it to give a love message of his own and Allen has sounds of endearment too.
It completes a fine album which shows that the powerful spirit and originality of hardbop is very much alive and blowing with Jeremy Plet and his men - full of message, beauty and collective honour from its musicians.
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