Trumpeter Pharez Whitted does not hide his populist intentions He titled his latest album For the People
(Origin) and loaded it with compositions that highlight a bright tone and optimistic spirit.
"Music has the power to help mellow out some screwed-up philosophies," Whitted said at a cafe near his home on Chicago's South Side. "I'd like my music to speak ot that. Believe in something--hope. I don't want to preach; I just want to help."
Growing up in Indianapolis, Whitted received considerable help from his musical family. His father played drums and his mother was a bassist. His uncle, trombonist Slide Hampton, drilled him with long practice sessions. But the easygoing trumpeter said he never received any parental pressure to pursue music as a career.
"There was a trumpet in one of the closets, and I just pulled it out and started trying to play it," Whitted recalled. "One of my brothers showed me the C major scale, ad the rest is history. That's the way music is for me. It seemed like the natural thing for me to do."
That inclination blended with his educational drive. After Whitted graduated from DePauw University, he worked on his master's degree with David Baker an Indiana University. Whitted began teaching at the Ohio State University in 1992 and nine years later moved to Chicago State University, where he currently directs the jazz program.
Whitted's pivotal Chicago music lesson came when he shared a stage with saxophonist Von Freeman: "I asked him, 'What do you want me to prepare?' He said, 'Pharez, just think universe
Whitted's universe has been wide enough to include performances with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell as well as a week in Las Vegas backing Chaka Khan. He also performs in Chicago big bands, including the ensebmle of legendary arranger Thomas "Tom Tom" Washington. But Whitted remains grounded through his small group, which played on his 2010 disc, Transient Journey
(Owl), and on For the People
. His guitarist, Bobby Broom, co-produced the new disc.
One crucial advantage to keeping his working band together has been in its responsiveness to Whitted's deceptively tricky compositions. But he insists that his writing and editing methods remain straightforward. "Everything is based on melody and grove and whether it speaks to me," he explained. "If I can sit up, feel it, have it absorbing me, and I don't want to turn it off, it may have a shot."