Indianapolis-born trumpeter Pharez Whitted has kept a low profile in the new millennium. He's busied himself with teaching, attending to his duties as Director of Jazz Studies at Chicago State University, performing live and appearing as a sideman on a scant number of under-the-radar albums, but none of this has helped to boost his reputation beyond his Midwestern home base. His fourteen year silence between Mysterious Cargo (Motown, 1996) and Transient Journey (Owl, 2010) didn't help matters in the visibility department, but Whitted's making up for lost time now.
For The People finds Whitted in fine form, delivering funky hard bop, sunny selections and probing fare with equal skill. His horn work and writing both take center stage here, as he moves through eleven originals with his simpatico sextet. Eddie Harris-influenced funk-meets-hard bop ("Another Kinda Blue"), John Coltrane-like mysticism ("Freedom Song"), Latin-tinged post-bop ("Keep The Faith") and muted melodicism ("For The People") all come into the picture at various times. Whitted's always-focused horn lights the way throughout, whether taking on a flugelhorn-like shine ("If They Could Only See"), working in fiery, Freddie Hubbard-derived fashion ("Another Kinda Blue") or turning into Terence Blanchard-esque territory ("The Unbroken Promise").
While some of the tunes try to pack in a few too many solos, it's understandable that Whitted would want to showcase these musicians. Guitarist Bobby Broom, who co-produced the album with Whitted, saxophonist Eddie Bayard, who's capable of delivering molten soul with his tenor and slightly mellower asides with soprano, and pianist Ron Perrillo are all deserving of the space they're given. Bassist Dennis Carroll, who establishes himself right out of the gate with some springy bass on "Watusi Boogaloo," and drummer Greg Artry, who sounds best when things get funky, also deserve a nod for their work.
After a long drought, it seems that Pharez Whitted has found the waters of inspiration and virility that will allow him to teach, play and record. Now, people outside of the Chicago-area can take notice of Whitted's winning work.