Dan Meinhardt’s Outset finds themselves in some unexpected territory on their eponymous release, as they reinvigorate the musical principles that made jazz great a hundred years ago without sounding dated or necrophilic. Swinging lusciously, grooving intently, and spinning melodies throughout, this quartet of young Chicago musicians creates a shockingly raw and vulnerable display of everything that makes this group what it is and none of what it isn’t.
Though each song has a luxurious fullness, the sonic quality remains clean and spacious in their freedom from a piano or guitar. In fact, this setup allows Meinhardt on saxophone, Justin Copeland on trumpet, and Tim Ipsen on bass to create fresh harmonies out of their intertwining melodies. Add in Andrew Green on drums, and this grouping of instruments lends itself to Meinhardt’s characteristic less-is-more approach to all things.
The opening track “Gooby” hops and skips along a blues in a second-line-esque manner and really sets the tone for the rest of the record. There’s no attempt to hide influences but instead a serious commitment to making these tunes groove and pulse with excitement and intent. They push “Dropped” into punk-funk, breakdown “Something Mellow” (paradoxically) like a great death metal track, and lay way back into “Wayneish”. Be sure to check out Meinhardt and Copeland take a backseat to Green’s scintillating drum solo on “Points For Trying”.
Whether you want to listen to modern jazz juxtaposed against the music’s history or just hang out and relax with some tunes, Outset on repeat is recommended. Every phrase, every rhythm is carefully crafted for the listener, but it never loses its sense of humor or ability to entertain. This is serious music that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Dan Meinhardt’s Outset will release its self-titled album on August 26th, 2016 on ears&eyes Records. You can catch them tonight (8/9) in Chicago, IL at California Clipper or when they release the album in Chicago at Constellation.