Jazz often requires a discriminating ear to fully appreciate all of its complexities, and moreover, the emotions that even its simplest of harmonies represent, but in the case of Dan Engelhardt’s new LP Here at Last, novice listeners curious about this storied genre needn’t feel intimidated by the record’s fourteen-song tracklist; in fact, quite the contrary indeed. In Here at Last, Engelhardt illustrates the magnificent mechanics of the jazz genre through conceptual compositions like “My Mothers’ Death,” the bittersweet “Jackie” and “Sienna’s Waltz” without getting too wrapped up in cosmetic frills which, in today’s sonic climate, makes his new material quite the rare treasure for fans and critics alike.
“Sienna’s Waltz” and “Clairvoyant” had my attention right out of the box, and it doesn’t take much more than a cursory analysis of their framework to understand why. In both of these tracks, Dan Engelhardt employs a great manipulation of tension in the broken harmonies comprising the song’s most climactic moments, all the while utilizing nothing more than the organic instrumental components set before them (as opposed to incorporating the sort of soundboard fluff that scores of his contemporaries would just as soon have leaned on when making a new album).
The mild swing in the percussive section of “Driftwood” isn’t quite as deliberately plodding in stylization as “Hymn to Florencia” is, but the two definitely don’t make for odd bedfellows in this tracklist at all. On the contrary, I think that in both songs, the crude contradictions within the shifting tempos are necessary to bring out the color in the heavenly harmonies they each boast with pride, making them – at least compositionally – a lot more alike than they are different. Dan Engelhardt made quite a diverse LP in Here at Last, but although he was not shy about experimentations, he was also very careful to follow a singular style of attack with regards to making the music here flow seamlessly from start to finish.
“A Spirited Life,” “Jackie” and the opening track would all make for incredible live numbers, and after listening to each of them, I couldn’t help but think of the classic jazz performances I’ve personally taken in within the walls of small smoky clubs on the west coast. There’s an additional luster that songs like this accumulate when they’re performed in front of a crowd, and if I have my way, Dan Engelhardt will treat his listeners to a full-length tour in support of this record sooner than later.
If you’re any degree of a jazz fan, from the newcomer to the longtime aficionado, I think you need to consider Dan Engelhardt’s Here at Last required listening this autumn, as it undeniably brings a colorful melodicism to the fold that has been oddly absent from the genre’s underground output in recent years. There’s a chemistry in the studio here you just can’t fake, and with any luck, he will be offering up more material like that which we find in these fourteen songs before the next year is out. I’ll be keeping an eye on his work, and I highly recommend you do the same.
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