Jazz trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has explored a variety of settings on his albums, from driving acoustic hard bop to electrified funk and even electronic music. With 2020's dusky The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1, he shifts gears yet again, settling into a drummerless trio format on a warmly attenuated set of ballads. The album is stark contrast to his ambitious 2019 effort, The Artist, which found him drawing inspiration from the sculptures of Auguste Rodin. Where that album showcased his ear for harmonically expansive post-bop in the vein of Woody Shaw, here he strips his approach down to the essentials. Joining him are two highly regarded jazz veterans, pianist George Cables and bassist Peter Washington. Both players have a long association with the trumpeter, including Washington being the godfather of Pelt's son and Cables having known him since right after he graduated from Berklee in the late '90s. The trio bring all of that musical and life experience to bear here on a mix of originals and lesser-played standards. The album opens with Pelt's deceptively straight-forward "Love Is Simple." Built around a lyrical, twice-repeated eight-bar phrase, the song nonetheless affords the band plenty of room to stretch out. From there, they wrap themselves in the languid glow of the Rodgers and Hart classic "Little Girl Blue," with Cables framing Pelt's fuzzy trumpet lines in delicately reharmonized chords and Washington offering a warm bowed solo. Similarly enveloping are Pelt's Harmon-muted songs, including "Always on My Mind" (the Johnny Green/Norman Newell song, not the Willie Nelson tune) and the soulful Lee Adams and Charles Strouse composition "I've Just Seen Her" from the 1962 musical All American. Elsewhere, they offer a far-eyed and bluesy reading of Cables' "Ebony Moonbeams" and cull ever richer emotional veins out of Lucky Thompson's "While You Are Gone." Pelt and Washington even pare down to a duo for the wryly improvised and painterly slow-blues "Ab-o-lutely." A perfect example of the less-is-more philosophy, The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1 maximizes the personal and musical connections between Pelt and his trio bandmates.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar