Guitarist, arranger and Jojo Records founder Simon Belelty’s new PEE WEE disc is out now

Guitarist, arranger and Jojo Records founder Simon Belelty has released Pee Wee, a masterful display capturing thoughtful melody and the unique beauty of every moment, available today via Jojo Records.

Guitarist Simon Belelty is no stranger to the music scene, with nearly thirty years as a professional arranger, sideman and producer under his belt. Equally important, Belelty’s performance experience over these years gave him a deeply intertwined connection between the beauty of life and the development of a musician’s unique voice. His latest result is Pee Wee, a sonic paradise with a kindness and authenticity listeners never knew they needed, out today on Jojo Records.

Belelty’s deep love for jazz began in his childhood home in Jerusalem. His father, jazz drummer Jojo Belelty, would share his vinyl records with his family and the contagious joy the records brought him. Jojo Records, the label founded by Simon Belelty, is named after his father and seeks to carry on the tradition of spreading the wonder and delight his father brought to others through jazz. The bubbling spirit of Belelty’s father is undeniably continued with Pee Wee, an album born out of Belelty’s happiness as he contemplated music. “The melodies on this album were in my heart long before I could put my finger on them,” Belelty says. “That energy was part of me for a while.”

Pee Wee is, in many ways, a tribute to a melody’s ability to convey the emotional integrity of a moment. As an arranger, Belelty knows this truth intimately: his writings act as vehicles for melodies, moving generously on a path to the human heart. Whether they soar freely or whisper subtly, Pee Wee’s melodies and their unique organic presentation are what set this record apart in the most truthful and intimate way. “A lot of those melodies have stuck with me since I was 15,” Belelty says. “Sometimes you feel ideas and melodies, but they’re not strong enough to pass on to someone else. I try to put them on paper and see them clearly enough to be able to explain them to others. “

Beyond framing, Belelty points out how his musical company on such a recording can have a dramatic impact on the creation and execution of the melody. In fact, Kirk Lightsey, longtime Belelty collaborator and star pianist of Pee Wee, was the first to introduce the bandleader to his title track, “Pee Wee.” [Lightsey] played this song throughout his career in many bands and for me this is one of the songs that represents him more than many other songs,” says Belelty. “I really wanted to take this opportunity to have Kirk on my record. , to play this song with him.”

The title of the album is derived from much of the same reasoning as the title track was included on the record, as a tribute to the friendship and as a tribute to the composer behind, Tony Williams. “This particular melody sounds very melodic and easy, but it’s not that easy,” Belelty says. “It’s like the way Tony Williams plays – when he plays it looks easy but it really isn’t.” The music on this album and the concept behind it belong to a similar category. Although the tunes are easily recognizable, it is the authentic presentation of the music that none other than master craftsmen could have achieved. For Belelty, the melody of “Pee Wee” is one that mixes emotions in a complex way. This emotional maturity is found throughout the album. “This song is one I love deeply, and I feel good – but also sad – when I hear it. Good and sad aren’t always opposites – certainly not in music,” Belelty says. “So it’s a sad song, with an upbeat flavor. That’s why I chose it for the album.”

Along with the title track, Pee Wee showcases Belelty’s distinctive arranging style through seven other tracks, some of which are better known, while others are performed less often. Among the former are Wayne Shorter’s famous tracks “Witch Hunt” and “United”. Both tracks were rearranged by Belelty for touring with Kirk Lightsey and the late great Jerry Gonzalez, in whose memory Belelty’s band recorded the tracks. “The songs on this tour make me feel at home,” Belelty expresses. “I think it was good for us to play them again.” “Lady Luck” by Thad Jones, a track Belelty regularly performs live, has remained a theme in his musical life since he was 14, and therefore makes an appearance on this recording. The album ends with “Never Let Me Go”, a sonic experience the band had not experienced together before. “It was perfect, so we decided to integrate it”, comments Belelty.

Pee Wee features a distinguished cast consisting of Simon Belelty (guitar), Kirk Lightsey (piano), Jason Brown (drums), Gilles Naturel (bass), Asaf Yuria (soprano and tenor saxophones) and Josh Evans (trumpet). Special guests John Betsch (drums) and Darryl Hall (bass) arrive on tracks 3 and 4, temporarily replacing Brown and Naturel to heighten the specificity of Belelty’s vision for each track. “It’s the communication and understanding of each musician that produces a unique sound. These tracks were chosen specifically with these musicians in mind.”

A subtle, handcrafted display of the brilliance of emotion, Pee Wee is a portrait of both sound and silence, an illustration that reaches beyond ideas and into the depths of form and feeling. A musical statement with a warm embrace, Pee Wee is an immeasurable display of esteemed musicality, detailed by the essence that shapes and defines humanity itself.

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