made a deep impression on the jazz public with the release of his long-overdue third CD as a leader, Transient Journey. Fortunately, admirers will not have to wait as long for its follow-up. His sparkling new album, For the People, will be released by Origin Records on October 16. He’s rejoined on the new disc by his world-class sextet of guitarist Bobby Broom, pianist Ron Perrillo, bassist Dennis Carroll, drummer Greg Artry, and the tenor and soprano saxophonist Eddie Bayard.
“It’s been my pleasure to work with Pharez and to be involved with his artistry,” says Broom, who co-produced the new date (and the previous one) with Whitted. “On this record, through his tunes, we’ve been able to create the perfect environment to display his jazz vision and unique voice on his horn.”
For the People basks in tradition—not only with its infectious hard bop, but also with its commitment to serving listeners. “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,” says Pharez.
Steeped in the prime time Blue Note sounds of Freddie Hubbard, the Jazz Messengers, and Horace Silver, For the People fully lives up to its title, whether capturing the joy of dancing on “Watusi Boogaloo,” communicating the need for all of us to “get outside our own skins and come together” on “Freedom Song,” or honoring the victims and survivors of recent disasters including the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2010 earthquake in Chile.
“These are all very serious musicians,” says Whitted of his bandmates, “who make real sacrifices in putting the group before themselves. For all of us, the collective always has more meaning than the individual.”
Based since 2001 in Chicago, where he is Associate Professor of Music at Chicago State University, the 52-year-old Whitted was born in Indianapolis and grew up amidst local jazz royalty—his own large and prodigiously talented family. His parents—drummer Thomas Whitted Sr. and singing bassist Virtue Hampton Whitted—were members of a jazz orchestra called the Hampton Band. It included Pharez’s uncle Slide Hampton, soon to become a world-renowned trombonist and arranger, as well as his uncles Marcus and Maceo on trumpets, uncle Russell on tenor saxophone, uncle Duke on vibes and trombone, aunt Carmelita on baritone saxophone and vocals, aunt Altetra on piano, and aunt Dawn, who sang and danced. His grandparents, painter Deacon Clark Hampton and wife Laura, regularly invited Indianapolis musicians such as Freddie Hubbard and Wes Montgomery and his brothers Monk and Buddy to practice at their house. Pharez’s three older brothers are musicians—Tommy a trombonist, Leo a trumpeter, and Henry a saxophonist—while sister Tamar is a singer, and sister Venture, the only non-musician of the bunch, is an artist. (The song “Venture” on For the People was named for her.)
Pharez earned his master’s degree at Indiana University, studying with renowned jazz educator David Baker, and has been active as an educator ever since. He’s been no less active as a performer, having formed a long-running jazz quintet, Decoy, following his graduation, and—after his move to Chicago—playing around town with saxophonists Ari Brown, Von Freeman, and Sonny Seals, and spending seven years as a member of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. His current sextet, which he put together six years ago, is a perfect showcase for his gifts as a trumpet player and composer, as well as for the outstanding musicianship of his band members.
“Music can be very therapeutic to those who create it as well as the ones who listen to it,” says Whitted. “The creation of this project has helped me to see life in a more beautiful and creative way with an inspired sense of hope about the infinite amount of possibilities in front of me. My hope is that it will help the people who have the opportunity to hear it to do something along those lines as well.”