Dan Engelhardt “Here at Last” (LP)
In moderate rhythm, piano keys delicately cut through the silence and usher us into the warm opening melody in the opening track of Dan Engelhardt’s new album Here at Last, their very presence seeming to open the floodgates through which a strutting bassline, confident drums, and sensuous melodies will come pouring out. The majestic nature of the music is captivating, but what truly makes this first song on the record such a spellbinder has little to do with grandiosity and almost everything to do with precision. As we segue into “A Spirited Life,” we start to learn just how committed to sonic efficiency this group is, and perhaps even more important than that, how far they’ll go to conjure up a potent harmony where others would see a musical dead-end.
If the understated intensity of “A Spirited Life” doesn’t rouse all of your senses simultaneously, I would bet money that the soothingly surreal “Jackie” will, as it embodies the stylistic counterpoint to its predecessor’s indulgent aesthetical make-up. “Jackie” artfully paints us a portrait of unfiltered emotionality over the course of roughly just a few minutes and change, and as we reach the finish line in the composition, an amalgamation of melodies leads to what could be this album’s most cathartic fever pitch. A stylish cosmopolitan beat ensures that the fireworks keep on coming as “Clairvoyant” brings forth a deluge of decadent percussion and melodic wallop courtesy of a perfectly synchronized harmony between the keys and the bassline, and while this is only the halfway point in Here at Last, it feels as though we’ve already consumed an entire LP’s worth of substance at this juncture of the tracklist.
“Hymn to Florencia” begins in balladic territory, bewitching us with a riveting melodic element that quickly expands into something much more vibrant and colorful in tone. The intricacies aren’t quite as obscured in the construction of this song as they are in “Driftwood,” but in both tracks, I think we get to know Dan Engelhardt on a much more emotional level than we do in other areas of this record. Where “Hymn to Florencia” is multifaceted and enigmatic in its narrative, “Driftwood” is a bit more on the nose and deliberate with its sonic statements, setting us up for the hybridity that is “My Mothers’ Death” brilliantly.
Following a juggernaut of rollercoaster rhythm as driven by swift acceleration as it is a certain postmodernity more common in straight fusion than it is in this strain of jazz (i.e. “My Mothers’ Death”), Here at Last comes to a conclusion with the self-explanatory “Sienna’s Waltz,” a potently wistful finisher that builds on the soft elegance of previous tracks while incorporating a pastoral swing that could easily lull a baby to sleep. When all is said and done, I think that Dan Engelhardt is going to get some very high marks for what he has created in this LP, and moreover, what he is establishing as his signature sound here. In an era that has offered a lot of interesting content from jazz artists both indie and mainstream alike, his new record is definitely one that I won’t soon forget.