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Pee Wee

by Simon Belelty

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Habiba 09:39
Pee Wee 06:18 video
Witch Hunt 05:12
Lady Luck 07:00
United 05:42


Depending on the mood, melody or atmospheric conditions of a piece of music, jazz, as it is known, is a harmonic reordering of time and space.

The music on this recording, for instance – contemplative, laconic, tender, and romantic – is highly specific in its parameters. Mid-Autumn, lazy Sunday afternoon, a light rain, red wine, snuggling, whispering, remembering. A transference of time where even a casual listener will be alive in the moment, but also lost in the melody, the familiar urgencies having melted away in the graceful interplay between a group of musicians (the band) who know there is no better place to be than in the interior harmony of these tunes, with a simpatico community of listeners – whether it be in a club, or in their private spaces – sharing that sense of nirvana. It’s-good-to-be-alive music. Existential music. I love-you-and-forgive-you music.

Simon Belelty has been sharing these musical moments for nearly thirty years as a guitar player, arranger and producer of jazz. To some, he may be known primarily as a side man, but on this recording he takes the reigns. That doesn’t mean he dominates the music. On the contrary, Belelty is a master collaborator, and on this album he brings together a stellar group of instrumentalists for whom collaboration is a sacred rite of passage.

What is apparent to anyone who listens is that Simon has a delicate touch, inquisitive but self- assured. In other genres of music, say, the blues, rock and roll or heavy metal, the guitar brays and badgers its way to center stage, often at the expense of everyone else. In jazz, the guitar is an entirely different type of companion. The instrument insinuates itself between the more commanding tonal elements of the sax, trumpet and piano.

Even when providing distinctive solos, as he does on United (a classic Wayne Shorter composition) and the exquisite Never Let Me Go, Simon sounds as if he snuck in through the back door and commanded the bandstand without anyone seeing it coming.

On this album, the guitar holds it all together, but Belelty is accompanied by a stellar cast of co-conspirators. On the piano, Kirk Lightsey is a veteran master of melody, and his contributions on Habiba (a tune he composed) and More Than You Know (a duet between Lightsey and tenor sax virtuoso Asaf Yuria) are sublime. Lady Luck is a hipster’s lament, where bassist Gilles Naturel and drummer Jason Brown establish the rhythm, and trumpeter Josh Evans stylishly glides above the clouds. Pee Wee and Witch Hunt showcase drummer John Betsch and bassist Darryl Hall to superlative effect. 415 Central Park West displays a touch of NYC swagger, with an intro by Simon on guitar giving way to a robust series of solos from all the major players.

The result is a jazz album that is sneaky and assertive, joyous and melancholy. If these seem like contradictory terms, listen again. All the elements are resolved by a group of musicians who know how to reach new heights through the interplay of musical ideas. Led by Simon Belelty, they seize the moment, and make time stand still.

-- T. J. English, best-selling author and jazz aficionado

Simon Belelty, Guitar

Kirk Lightsey, Piano

Asaf Yuria, Soprano & Tenor saxophones

Gilles Naturel, Bass

Jason Brown, Drums

Josh Evans, Trumpet

Special guests : John Betsch, Drums on tracks 3, 4 and Darryl Hall, Bass on track 3, 4


1. Habiba
(Kirk Lightsey)

2. 415 Central Park West
(Steve Grossman)

3. Pee Wee
((Tony Williams)

4. Witch Hunt
((Wayne Shorter)

5. More Than You Know
(Vincent Youmans)

6. Lady Luck
(Thad Jones)

7. United
(Wayne Shorter)

8. Never let me know
(Jay Livingstone)


released October 28, 2022

Recorded at Studio de Meudon, Paris, 2020

Produced by Jojo Records
Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineer - Julien Bassères
Photography - Dan Balilty
Liner Notes: T. J. English


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Jojo Records New York, New York

Jazz with a sense of fidelity to the traditions of the past, while always looking forward towards new styles and approaches.
This is the philosophy of Jojo Records.

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