Anyone who believes that mainstream jazz is growing less and less accessible should check out this aptly titled release from trumpeter Pharez Whitted. For the People
is a catchy collection, but it's no pop-jazz trifle. Performing hard-bop originals marked by soulful melodies and bluesy grooves, Whitted's sextet demonstrates that accessible jazz need not be formulaic.
After 14 years teaching jazz at the collegiate level--he's currently Director of Jazz Studies at Chicago State University--Whitted reemerged in 2010 with Transient Journey
, another collection of infectious originals. The trumpeter reunites with the same powerhouse band on this follow-up: guitarist and co-producer Bobby Broom, saxophonist Eddie Bayard, pianist Ron Perrillo, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Greg Artry.
Each of these Chicago jazzmen infuses Whitted's compositions with contemporary flourishes, but Whitted and Broom are most impressive. While Whitted's playing is notably influenced by fellow Indianapolis native Freddie Hubbard, his composing style is closer to Horace Silver's. And Broom's imaginative lines bring real textural depth to the music.
The album features an equal number of up-tempo groovers and mellow cuts, each radiating a buoyant vibe reflecting Whitted's stated philosophy: "Music is meant to lift people up, get them to do something positive, whether it's hugging their kids, giving up a parking space to someone, or just smiling at the sunshine."
The brightest sunshine is generated by the faster, funkier cuts, particularly the danceable opener "Watusi Boogaloo"; the slinky "It Is What It Is"; and the Latin-flavored "Keep the Faith." "Freedom Song" possesses an ominous Middle Eastern chorus and the freest interplay of any track, while "Sad Eyes," the highlight ballad, includes several excellent solos.
Whitted's two albums from the '90s were ultra-slick knockoffs of Miles Davis' electric period. But his second excellent recording in as many years proves that this scion of a renowned Indianapolis jazz family has forged his own creative identity.